STATIONS OF THE CROSS: Station 2 — Jesus Takes Up His Cross, by Joan Chittister

The Path to New Life

Jesus Takes Up His Cross Joan Chittister

From: The Way of the Cross

The Experience

Who does not understand this second station of the cross?  Who is it that cannot feel the depth of the emotional anguish that goes with it?  In fact, who has not lived through it themselves in some way, somehow in life?  After all, the unpredictable burdens of life are part and parcel of being alive.  Difficulties are everywhere and at every level of existence: The relationship ends, the friends go, the success goes to someone else, the illness comes on quickly and fells us without warning.

Clearly, there are some things we simply cannot avoid.  These things disappoint us, of course.  They bear down on our lives in very real ways.  They change us, sometimes for life.  They try us to the very marrow of our souls and they are not to be dismissed lightly.  No doubt about it: It takes courage to carry them well.  It is one thing when the tribulations of life come from our own hands.  But when we ourselves did nothing deliberate to bring them on, the sting is even worse.

The truth is that there are two distinct kinds of crosses.  The first comes to us out of nowhere, without warning, not at our own hand, just one of the circumstances of life.  The second kind of cross we make for ourselves.  Inadvertently, perhaps, but consciously nevertheless.

What ought not be part of life, however, is the cross that comes from the hand of another determined to oppress and designed to kill spirit or body or both.

Having preached the world of the Beatitudes in a world of violence, having healed the hopeless, questioned the system, opened his arms to the outcasts and challenged the world to live differently so that life would be different for everyone everywhere, the cost of it all in jealousy, resentment, anger and ill will comes quickly.  It is this burden of malice that is the cross Jesus reaches out to take hold of here.  This is the cross he did not want but was willing to accept so that the world might see another way to be alive.

The Call

This station asks us all a very direct question:  For what would you be willing to risk your life?  What crosses do you yourself take on, knowing the risk, understanding the cost and being committed to the consequences?  The call of the second station is no small mission.  It requires us to live life consciously, to know what’s going on around us, to take some kind of responsibility, however small, for the welfare of others, for justice in the part of the universe we call our homes, our country, our world.

This station calls for involvement in life.  It calls us to leave the isolation of spiritual narcissism that treats the spiritual life as some sort of personal comfort zone designed to protect us from the world we live in.  It requires us to make the journey from Galilee to Jerusalem ourselves, healing the sick, raising the dead and bringing the Gospel to a world long dead of soul.

The Model

What we see in Jesus in the second station is a striking challenge: The second station of the cross teaches us that commitment costs.  To choose one path in life from another is to choose its consequences.

Real commitment implies that, like Jesus, we carry the burdens of our choices in bad times as well as good, on difficult days as well as easy ones, in the face of opposition as well as at times of great public or popular support.

We pay the price of being true to ourselves, of doing what must be done when doing what could be done would be so much easier.  When Jesus took up the cross, all hope for a miraculous end to an impossible situation was over, both for him and for us.  The tariff of truth told in behalf of justice is often pain.

The question with which the second station confronts us is a dangerous one: Having begun a good thing, will I pay the price to bring it to fulfillment?  It’s so easy to talk of great virtue, so simple to begin a thing.  It’s seeing it through the questions and criticisms and doubts and despair that really counts.

In this second station, we see a critically conscious Jesus embrace a cross unbearably beautiful for its meaning, unbearably bleak for its pain.

The Rising

The very act of accepting a cross for the sake of another gives rise in us to the best of ourselves.  In that act, the heart of Jesus awakens in us and we become new of soul again.  It is the moment in which we rise from the grave of a world that long ago gave up the ideal in favor of the pragmatic, the just in favor of the profitable.

The very impulse to choose the best over the comfortable or the secure is sign that the resurrection has begun in us.  Every action of Jesus to stretch the vision of Israel – the choice of the menstruating woman over the dictates of the law, the choice of the children over the prestigious adults, the choice of the Roman soldier over the officials of his own system – made him more and more an enemy of the system.  But it also made him more and more clearly a sign of the presence of God on Earth, so will it do the same in us.

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