Thursday After Ash Wednesday

by Fr. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem.


On Tuesday morning, when we filed into the room where Fr. Leo was lying having recently passed, we were greeted with an unforgettable and consoling image: Fr. Leo’s hands wrapped lovingly around a crucifix, his face serene, at peace. Today we hear the Lord say to us: “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

As Christians, we are followers of Christ from the time of our baptism. We walk the road of life alongside our fellow humans, but our faith points us to the goal of life’s journey, which is eternal life in heaven. And Christ calls us to bear our cross along the way.

Nevertheless, we find it hard to embrace the cross because we don’t want to suffer. Usually we find that the best we can do is accept the cross each day. Most of us don’t go through the day looking for opportunities to suffer. However, inevitably some suffering, even a small one, will come our way whether we choose or not. Then the challenge is how to deal with it. We’re inclined to complain and rebel; our human nature takes over. We grit our teeth and hope no one notices.

Little crosses often come in a series, not just one a day. They sometimes add up to a “bad day”, and we make sure others know it. But wait, we are Christians; we’re supposed to smile our way through a bad day. Unfortunately, after a series of trials, our emotions tend to rebel against our better judgement. We erupt with a colorful word or phrase. Where do we find help? Two thoughts might help here.

First, bearing the cross alone without Christ is like punishment. Why is God punishing me? We remember that Christ walked the way of the cross first and we are His followers. He should be our example and inspiration. But He is much more. He is the source of our merit; through His suffering our suffering has both meaning and merit, as long as we suffer in union with Him. So let’s remember to make a morning offering of our “prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day”. 

Secondly, in our Lenten Collect today we heard: “Prompt our actions with your inspiration, O Lord, and further them with your constant help.” We are not alone in carrying our cross. The Lord is there with His grace of inspiration and His sustaining grace. When we fall, He is there to raise us up and set us back on the road. If that were not enough, He has also given us a mother, Mary, comforter of the afflicted, who accompanies us all along the way.

We will suffer trials during Lent. That should not surprise us. Our Lord and Master “endured temptation and suffering” throughout the forty days. Why should it be different for His followers? He is with us during these 40 days for “without Him we can do nothing,” but with Him all things are possible.

A final image: in recent days the sun in its course has been shedding brilliant light on our large crucifix over the altar during Vespers, illuminating the Rex Gloriae. He is the King of glory, glorified by His death on the cross. It reminds us of the passion hymn: “Forward the royal banners go / The Cross shines forth in mystic glow.” He who bore the cross sheds the light of grace on our way. We bear our little crosses now by our daily dying to self, and our Lord points to the cross and says to us: “Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” In our Lenten journey, let us keep our eye on the goal, life on high with the King of glory.


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