Discovering meaning in our daily challenges

With our 40-day Lenten journey well under-way, we are now looking forward to Easter. Sometimes, in these weeks before Easter, it is difficult to make connections between our own life-journey and the journey to Jerusalem undertaken by Jesus that is unfolding in the scriptures. However, the language of ‘faith’ can connect with the ordinary language of human experience and help to provide us with meaning and purpose at this time.

Most of us reading this reflection do not have to look far to recognise our daily crosses, or see them in those with whom we live or work. We have experienced times of doubt or confusion; serious illness or incapacity; the death of loved ones, family or friends; the effects of accidents, tragedies or natural disasters; betrayal and misunderstanding; loss of income or other assets through addiction; relationship breakdowns; loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. Our daily crosses can be obvious or hidden, solitary or shared. We can feel burdened by them for a long time, before any sense of meaning or way forward might emerge from the trauma which has occurred.

As professionals, we have knowledge which can assist those in our care to meet their daily crosses. As care-givers, we can be tempted to ‘keep going’ to the point where our own personal crosses become all-consuming, affecting our ability to be ‘our best selves’.

How might this Lenten time help us navigate our ‘journey to Jerusalem’? Which characters in the Gospel stories can show us what is possible in the Easter experience? How does this ‘paschal mystery’ of passion, death and resurrection find expression in our lives?

  • As did Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross for Jesus for part of the journey, we can physically or metaphorically share the burden being carried by someone else. Perhaps we can allow someone close to us, or a stranger, to share the load of a heavy cross we carry. (Mark 15:21)
  • As did Mary, the mother of Jesus, who stood at the foot of the cross with Jesus and the two other men crucified with him, we can ‘be there’ with family members or work colleagues who are showing great courage and resilience in the face of difficulty. Perhaps we can allow others to ‘be there’ with us. (John 19: 25 – 27)
  • As did the disciples on the road to Emmaus, after Jesus had risen from the dead, we know people who have been disillusioned when things did not go as they had hoped. They cannot see a future with possibility or purpose. Perhaps, as Jesus did for these disciples, we can help others who might feel down-hearted to see beyond the immediate situation and find hope for all of creation in a future which is still unfolding. (Luke 24: 13 – 32)

We are invited to embrace these Lenten opportunities and to reflect on the challenges which come our way. Joyce Rupp, in her book Prayer Seeds, offers some prayerful thoughts on ‘Carrying Crosses’:

The God of mercy and compassion journeys with me on the road of life with its hills and valleys;

May I recognise the daily cross that is mine and carry this burden in a trustful way, confident that the undesired parts of my life can be guides to my spiritual growth;

Increase my awareness of the false judgements, the unfair expectations that quickly arise to crowd out kindness and compassion for myself and others;

Soften any hardness of heart I have toward another. Increase my ability to be understanding. Help me topple the walls that prevent my being a forgiving person;

Expand my perception of the good things my life already holds. Decrease my apprehension about not having enough, being enough, doing enough or growing enough;

Awaken the undying song of hope in my soul as I carry my unwanted cross each day, so that even in the worst of times I continue to trust you to provide what is needed…1

Annette Schneider RSM

1Joyce Rupp (2017) Prayer Seeds Sorin Books: ND Indiana, adapted extracts from p. 90

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