TO pick up one’s Cross means to empty oneself out completely for love of the other. Jesus put it another way:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)
We are to love as Jesus loved us. In His personal mission, which was a mission for the entire world, it involved death upon a cross. But how are we who are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, priests and nuns, to love when we are not called to such a literal martyrdom? Jesus revealed this too, not only on Calvary, but each and every day as He walked among us. As St. Paul said, “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…”  How?
In today’s Gospel (liturgical texts here), we read how the Lord left the Synagogue after preaching and headed over to Simon Peter’s home. But rather than finding rest, Jesus was immediately called upon to heal. Without hesitation, Jesus ministered to Simon’s mother. And then that evening, at sunset, the entire town seemed to turn up at His door—the sick, diseased, and demonized. And “He cured many.” With hardly any sleep, Jesus rose very early before dawn to at last find a “deserted place, where he prayed.” But then…
Simon and those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, “Everyone is looking for you.”
Jesus did not say, “Tell them to wait,” or “Give me a few minutes”, or “I am tired. Let me sleep.” Rather,
Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.
It is as if Jesus were a slave to His Apostles, a slave to the people who relentlessly sought Him out.
So too, the dishes, meals, and laundry relentlessly call to us. They beckon us to disrupt our rest and relaxation, to serve, and serve again. Our careers that feed our families and pay the bills beckon us at dawn, pull us from comfortable beds, and command our service. Then come the throngs of unexpected demands and reverses knocking at the door, the sickness of a loved one, the car needing repair, the sidewalk needing shovelling, or an elderly parent needing assistance and comfort. It is then that the Cross really begins to take shape in our lives. It is then that the nails of Love and Service begin to really pierce the limits of our patience and charity, and reveal the degree to which we really love as Jesus loved.
Yes, sometimes Calvary looks more like a mountain of laundry.
And these daily Calvaries that we are called to climb according to our vocation—if they are to transform us and the world around us—they must be done with love. Love does not hesitate. It rises to the duty of the moment when it calls, leaving behind its own interests, and seeking the needs of the other. Even their unreasonable needs.
After reading The Cross, the Cross!, one reader shared how he hesitated when his wife asked him to light a fire in the fireplace for her dinner party that night.
It’ll just suck all the warm air right out of the house. And I let her know. In the morning of that day, I had a Copernican shift. My heart changed. The woman has put a lot of work into making this a nice evening. If she wants a fire, make her a fire. And so I did. It wasn’t that my logic was faulty. It just wasn’t love.
How many times have I done the same! I have given all the right reasons why this or that request was ill-timed, illogical, unreasonable… and Jesus could have done the same. He had been serving all day and night. He needed His rest… but instead, He emptied Himself and became a slave.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him: whoever claims to abide in him ought to live just as he lived. (1 John 2:5)
You see, we don’t need to undertake great fasts and mortifications in order to find the Cross. It finds us each day in the duty of the moment, in our mundane tasks and obligations.
For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. (2 John 1:6)
And are we not fulfilling Christ’s commandments to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and imprisoned whenever we cook a meal, do the laundry, or divert our attention to the worries and cares that burden our family and neighbours? When we do these things with love, with no concern for our own self-interests or comfort, we become another Christ to them… and continue the renewal of the world.
What is necessary is that we have a heart like Samuel. In today’s first reading, each time he heard his name called in the middle of the night, he leapt from his sleep and presented himself: “Here I am.” Each time our families, vocations, and duties call our name, we too should leap up, like Samuel… like Jesus… and say, “Here I am. I will be Christ to you.”
Behold I come… To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart! (Today’s Psalm)