The Crosses We Must Carry
Not only was Jesus sentenced to die on the cross but he was also tasked to carry the cross the soldiers would later use to kill him. His journey up to the place called Golgotha was not meant to be easy. Under the burden of the cross Jesus becomes exhausted and falls a total of three times. The cross Jesus carried is not unlike crosses we all carry; however, ours may not be a physical wooden cross.
My time as a health educator at Erie Family Health Centers has allowed me to observe the crosses my patients carry. Erie is a Federally Qualified Health Center with the goal of providing care to everyone regardless of their ability to pay. We are motivated by the belief that healthcare is a human right and that all individuals should be treated with human dignity. Because of our mission, our patient population is heavily associated with those who are marginalized. We see individuals who are down on their luck, who are struggling to make ends meet, who usually are not insured, and who are sometime illegal immigrants. By interacting with many of our patients I have observed first-hand how systems and people have failed many of these individuals, resulting in crosses they have to carry and eventually fall.
Jesus falling for the third time reminds me of particular patient I met on a Wednesday morning this winter. All Erie clinics open at 10:00am on Wednesdays to see patients. A couple of my coworkers and I were working early at the clinic before the providers started their day. An elderly patient struggled to make his way in. He was in medical distress and appeared to be having difficulty breathing. My coworkers and I ran to his aid and tried to figure out what we could without a provider there. Our first thought was to call 911 because he couldn’t calm down and breathe appropriately. The patient refused repeatedly and kept telling us to get his wife and that she would know what to do. As my coworker ran down the block to get his wife, I was tasked with watching him and keeping him calm in the meantime. From my first view of the patient, he was disheveled and was moving slowly as he used his cane for support. His clothes were covered with blood and pus coming from his infected trachea and his mouth. He looked as if did not have running water and dental care readily available. As I sat with the patient, I started asking him about his life. He told me he was recently diagnosed with cancer and had just been in the hospital. As we continued to talk he told me about his asthma, how he was going through methadone treatment, and how he was just struggling to stay alive. He talked about how he lived for his wife, the love of his life for 40 years. As I continued to talk with the patient I realized just how extensive his cross was and just as many times he has fallen under its weight.
This story and many others I have heard this year have opened my eyes to many of crosses individuals’ carry. We all end up carrying crosses whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or socially just as Jesus did. Sometimes these crosses can make us fall repeatedly just as Jesus did.
What crosses or burdens are you carrying this Lent?
Do you feel like you are going to fall for a third time?
Who has shown you their crosses or burdens they carry?
How can you help them get back up?
Jesus, your journey has been long. You fall again, beneath your cross. You know your journey is coming to an end. You struggle and struggle. You get up and keep going.
As an adult, I often feel I should have conquered my weaknesses by now. I become discouraged when I’m confronted by the same problems over and over again. Sometimes I get weary. When I have health problems, I can become discouraged and depressed.
Help me think of the cross you carried. Help me continue to hope that I can make the changes in my life I need to. You didn’t give up. I can have the strength to get up again as well.
(Adopted from https://www.catholic.org/prayers/station.php?id=9)