On Our Lord Taking the Heavy Cross upon His Shoulders

Titian, “Christ Carrying the Cross”, ca. 1560

A Lenten Reflection for Friday after the Fourth Sunday in Lent from Holy Cross Publications


My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

On Our Lord Taking the Heavy Cross upon His Shoulders.

To-day, my soul, you are invited to contemplate the scene presented in the second station of the way of the cross. The executioners bring forward the cross which the Jews have prepared long beforehand, and fling it down noisily at our Lord’s feet. Now, when He beheld the instrument of death on which He was to expire, when He saw the tree of the cross whereon He was to vanquish the foe who on the tree of paradise in the shape of a serpent had won his victory, in holy rapture He embraced that cross, the altar of the New Covenant, and took the heavy burden on His sore and bruised shoulders. Let us consider the character of this burden.

1st. The burden our Lord takes upon His shoulders is an ignominious burden. At that time the cross was considered so opprobrious a thing that no honest man would so much as touch it, and for this reason criminals condemned to be crucified were compelled to carry their cross themselves to the place of execution. Our Lord, numbered amongst the transgressors, reputed amongst the wicked, now takes the cross of infamy upon His shoulders, He the most holy, the most guiltless, He our Lord and our God. Enter if you can into the full meaning of this awful truth. He by whose hands the heavens and earth are upheld carries the shameful burden of the cross. O wondrous humiliation! Yet out of this very humiliation as great honor proceeded as did shame and ignominy out of the pride of man at the foot of the tree of paradise.

2d. Consider that it is a sign of victory, this burden which our Lord takes upon His shoulders. We know that many a man has loaded his gun with the intention of shooting his enemy, and through carelessness or in too hot haste for vengeance has fired off the fatal shot to his own injury; and in the same way Satan fashioned a cross of wood in order to put Jesus to death, never anticipating that he was manufacturing the very weapon whereby an ignominious defeat would be inflicted on him. This is no evil-doer whom we see, who is taking the cross of shame upon His shoulders; it is a victorious Warrior carrying the weapon wherewith He will lay His hellish foe low. O sacred cross! on our Lord’s shoulders thou hast become a sharp-cutting sword wherewith the second David will cut off Goliath’s head. Wherefore, my soul, do not be ashamed of bearing the cross which is in the eyes of the world a sore disgrace, for in reality it is an all-conquering weapon, by means of which you can vanquish all the enemies of your salvation.

3d. Consider the joy wherewith our Lord takes the cross upon His shoulders. Now the time has come to do the will of the Father, to accomplish the task of His earthly career, to fulfil the eternal counsels of the Most High. This thought sustains our Lord; it renders Him oblivious of fatigue, of pain. We can imagine the same words which the great Apostle St. Andrew uttered at a later period, now coming from the lips of his divine Master. “Hail, precious cross!” He joyfully cries, “how long I have desired thee! On thee I will lay My weary head, for I have chosen thee as the place of My rest. I will bedew thee with My blood, and thus give thee a value above gold and precious stones. On thee I will expiate the sin Adam committed through the tree, therefore let Me embrace thee with joy and gladness.” O my soul, take up your cross also thus cheerfully, the cross which you took upon your shoulders when you entered the Priesthood, or the Religious state, and willingly accept the special cross which it may please God to lay upon you individually. This cross, bedewed with the tears of calm resignation, is of greater value to you than gold and precious stones. Do not be afraid of carrying it. Everything is difficult at the outset. But that which at first appears hard and bitter, will after a time become so easy and so sweet, that for nothing in the world would you give up the cross which in the beginning seemed so heavy; on the contrary you will rather say with one of the saints of God: Do not take from me, O my God, the cross which Thou hast laid upon my shoulders. And if you find your own cross a light and easy burden, then pray for others, who deem it a weight beyond their strength, and carry your cross with the intention of helping them.


My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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