What does the cross mean for each of us?

Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross, fifth station, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross. (iStock)

Jesus proclaimed himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6), and while we are willing and eager to seek life and truth, we’re not quite as eager to seek the way because Jesus’ way is always the way of the cross.

St. Paul referred to the cross as a stumbling block for the Jews and folly for the Gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23) so the question remains: What does the cross mean for me? Do I run from it, or do I embrace it, knowing that the way of the cross is the road we travel to salvation? Perhaps, no time is this more apparent than during the season of Lent.

The Way of the Cross takes on a special significance during Lent as we follow Jesus along the road to Calvary. Among the jeering crowds and the Roman soldiers, who goaded him on lest he die along the way, were others.

So, who are we as we make our way through the Stations of the Cross? Are we among the curious bystanders who watch but never allow our heart to be moved? Are we like Simon of Cyrene, who did only what he was forced to do and then with great reluctance? Are we like the holy women who wept for Jesus, not understanding that he chose suffering because of their sins?

There may have been times when, through the grace of God, we were inspired to relieve the pain of others as Veronica did when she wiped the face of Jesus, only to discover that we can never outdo the generosity of God, who leaves remnants of his touch imprinted on our soul.

There are lessons to be learned as we accompany Jesus to his crucifixion and death, not only from the people Jesus encountered, but from what he experienced each step along the way. Three times Jesus fell to the ground, and three times he picked himself up and continued the journey.

In allowing the weakness of his human nature, Jesus willingly succumbed to the pain and weakness that are part of the human journey because of sin. In so doing, the humility of God was on full display, yet the Son of God bore his weakness and insults, thus transforming age-old attitudes into a beatitude of love for all who choose to take up their cross daily and follow in his footsteps.

No Way of the Cross would be complete without Jesus’ encounter with Mary, his mother. As she witnessed her son falling to the ground under the weight of the cross, it must have taken enormous restraint not to rush in and help him rise as she did when he was a toddler learning to walk. How her heart must have cried out when cruel insults were heaped on her son’s head.

I wonder: did she recall the day when earthly kings from far off lands knelt in silent adoration before him?

We refer to the day that Jesus was crucified and died as “Good,” which reminds us that God’s way is not our way. Jesus embraced the cross because he understood that godly wisdom emanates, not from the head, but from the heart.

The great paradox that “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9) seems a conundrum, but here the word power is translated from the Greek word “teletai” and implies going to the end in full capacity. It alludes to the words of Jesus when from the cross, he said, “It is finished” (Jn 19:30).

Jesus’ death pierced the veil of sin as blood and water flowed from his heart, a sign that by his death we are born to eternal life. The cross is a great wonder of the world, because rather than a sign of death, it stands as a sign of victory for all who believe.

This is the great irony of the Christian journey for those who follow Jesus from Bethlehem and Calvary to the open tomb. Although we shall never fully understand the Paschal Mystery, each time we die to self in order to rise with Jesus, we imitate what it contains, so we may obtain what it promises. For Christians, the Paschal Mystery is more than a creed to profess, it’s a way of life that bids us enter, because to die in Christ is to live in Christ, not only here but for all eternity.


Barbara Hughes is an award-winning author, retreat facilitator and spiritual guide. She lives in Virginia Beach and can be reached at [email protected].


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