A Reflection for Monday of Holy Week.
Taken from ‘Walking Home’ by Margaret Guenther
Taking up your cross
Over the centuries, folk piety has added details to the story of our
Lord’s passion. Jesus falls three times: this is not only painful but a
humiliating sign of weakness. Each time he resumes his walk, he
must have been weaker. Did someone help him or kick him? He
meets his mother; it is unbearable to think of that encounter. An
unnamed woman wipes the sweat from his face and carries away the
imprint of his likeness on the cloth. Her name turns out not to have
been Veronica, which in folklore means ‘true image’, but more likely
a Miriam or a Sarah, a housewife, a compassionate bystander in the
The walk ends at Golgotha, the place of the skull, on a hill in the
blazing midday sun. But for Jesus’ followers, it is just the beginning.
Even as they hide out from the authorities, his disciples are probably
remembering his words: ‘If you want to be my friends, take up your
cross and walk with me.’ Luke’s Gospel adds another significant little
word: ‘Take up your cross daily and follow me’ (Luke 9:23). Again and
again. You might be able to put it down overnight, but pick it up
again in the morning.
it took me quite a while – years, actually – to realise that Jesus is not
inviting me to be crucified. I’m just volunteering to pick up my cross
and carry it. Maybe not with grace or even steadiness, moving ahead
under its weight. And it’s my cross, not the cross Jesus was
compelled to bear, and it may not weigh three hundred pounds. I
suspect that in our lifetime we each have a whole assortment of
crosses, all distinctly ours. Some are so heavy that we will stagger
and fall beneath their weight. Some cur cruelly into our shoulders.
Some might be real works of art, skilfully carved from beautiful
grained hard wood – the maple cross, the cherry cross, the old oaken cross, the everyday cross, even the invisible cross. Some are so light
that they are almost a joke, plywood or plastic, impressive to look at
but not to be taken seriously.
To take up my cross at all, let alone daily, sounds generous and
heroic, especially if it is one of those days when I would rather not.
‘No time today, but I’ll pick it up on Friday…… It’s Sunday, so can I
have a day off? …. I’ve got the flu and have to write a sermon – can’t
I put it off until I feel better?’
But Jesus’ command is inexorable: if you want to walk with me, there
are no excuses. No days off. You’re obsessed with riding your
stationary bike everyday and taking all your vitamins and checking
your email and flossing your teeth. Well, this is your real obligation.
It won’t kill you. You might get tired or bored or scared or fed up, but
this is the condition for your walk with me. It doesn’t happen any
other way. Put on your sandals or your sneakers or your hefty boots.
Pick up your cross and let’s get going.
Luke 22: 39-46
Walking along the way of the cross,
Help us to learn what it means for us to take up our cross whatever
its size, its shape or its weight.
Support our steps as they stumble and fall and raise us up by the
power of your Spirit. Amen.