The Way of the Cross – A Path to Salvation 

Another Easter Sunday is upon us and we are shown the miracle of life after death. The Earth has been quiet for many months, perceivably dead under a blanket of snow. But now the melting snow has given way to new growth and the Earth itself seems to be reborn. It is only natural for us to feel the fresh excitement of Spring and want to tap into that for ourselves. So let’s examine how we can let go of what no longer serves us and rise up to become something more beautiful. Consider these readings from the Book of Luke:

“Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”

Luke 9:23 and Luke 14:27 – NkjV

In these readings from the book of Luke, he tells us that in order to be a true disciple of Jesus we need to “take up our cross” and follow him. But what does that really mean? It has nothing to do with following him on social media – just to be clear.

The cross may be the most instantly recognizable religious symbol of our time. In my family church, there was a large cross above the altar with a very realistic representation of Christ in his suffering. It was quite shocking to me as a child to see a body nailed to the wall, and if you didn’t understand this imagery it might be quite disturbing. I guess that’s the point. Contemplating Christ’s suffering on the cross and knowing that he died in such a tortured way so that we might find salvation is really quite humbling.

Now as an adult I find it fascinating that an ancient method of persecution and punishment represents the ultimate spiritual teaching – surrendering to God’s will. The cross is at once a symbol of worldly suffering and ethereal transcendence. 

Jesus had to literally carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem, known as the “Via Dolorosa” or “Way of Suffering.” He carried it himself to the place where he would be crucified, while being mocked and ridiculed along the way. Nevertheless, He willingly surrendered to his fate and offered his life back to God so that we may transcend our own suffering through his example.

We are not asked to literally carry a cross, in the way Jesus did, but we might think of it in a metaphorical way; that to “carry a cross” means to bear our own personal suffering, hopefully with a sense of grace and surrender to God’s will. It urges us to accept our fate as wretched, sinful humans and strive to be more like Jesus, patient, forgiving, courageous, and honorable. 

When Jesus died on the cross, he transcended his suffering; he transcended death. He was able to leave his mortal body, be taken up to the kingdom of heaven and receive eternal life, and I think we all want that too. We want our sins forgiven. We want to be in heaven. We want glorified bodies. But we don’t want to suffer. Jesus is telling us that having all these blessings in heaven also means being willing to suffer in this life.

We might hear this and our minds quickly go to physical suffering, but there are plenty of ways people suffer that are not physical. Suffering can be emotional, mental, relational, or spiritual. And I’m sure none of us are willing participants in our suffering – or so we think. We might view it as something that is put upon us, and we may even get a sense of identity from it. We might talk about how unfair life is and feel proud that we can endure so much. We might even bring it up every chance we get and relate every tortured detail. Sometimes we wear our suffering like a badge of honor either because we think we have no other choice or that it makes us relevant in some way.

Thankfully, through Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross, we have been given a way to rise above our suffering. A way to leave behind our human failures and be reborn to a higher way of being through the grace of God. It is the ultimate gift.

But we can’t just hang a cross in our home, or wear one as jewelry, or make bible references and then expect our suffering to disappear. We must become more than just a fan of God or use His image as a lifestyle brand. That is not enough. We must do more than just go to church, read scripture, and flaunt our faith. 

We need to see the cross not as an outward token of identity, but as an inner symbol of transformation. The suffering that we experience in our lives, whether it is self-inflicted or from an external source, gives us the opportunity to use that experience to become a better person. To understand that we can’t just pray for forgiveness or salvation, we have to actively embody it. We have to see that the true purpose of our suffering is to help us surrender. To let go of the false roles and identities we have created for ourselves, to let go of the immoral beliefs and desires, to forgive ourselves for being weak and then find the strength to become better people through the grace of the Divine.

We must therefore take responsibility for our own suffering. Either to resolve it or let it go, but ultimately to allow it to promote real change in our own lives. If we are going to be true disciples of Christ, we must examine our actions, test our beliefs, and share our compassion with the world. Bear our cross not to show how burdened or victimized we are but to reveal the Divine path upon which we carry it. Let’s call it the way to salvation or “Via della Salvezza”. 

There’s a deep truth embedded in that archetypal image of the cross. Jesus is the archetypal human and bearing the cross is the archetypal journey of every human being. So I encourage you to be thankful for all the suffering that has brought you to this point, that has helped you to awaken to a higher state of being. And be willing to bear your cross, not for the glory of having suffered but for the opportunity to transcend our lowly human nature. That is the way to heaven.

The Way of the Cross – A Path to Salvation

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