Embracing Christ by loving your cross Print
Everyday Faith
Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

Everyday Faith column by Julianne Nornberg

Not long ago, dear friends of ours tragically had to lay their tiny precious baby, Maria, to rest.

At her funeral, Maria's brothers helped carry her small white casket and her sister followed with a bouquet of roses. My friends and their toddler walked behind, supporting each other through tears.

At 32 weeks, Maria had unexpectedly died in the womb. Since then, my friends have been shouldering unimaginable suffering, wondering if they will ever again be free of the incomparable grief of parents who lose a child.

This is their cross, their heartbreaking burden of suffering here on this earth, yet they are bearing it heroically. Recently they gave a talk at a hospital, their words revealing how, even in the abyss of their grief, they are leaning fully on God.

Growing close to God through suffering

Up until now I had never truly grasped what it means to grow closer to Christ through suffering. Maria's parents are showing me how. "There always seems like someone is missing," said Maria's mom.

"It is hard to explain to someone how this feeling just never goes away. The world just continues to move on, and you are left feeling as though you are the only one noticing the difference . . . But we are repeating these words to ourselves every day, 'Jesus, I trust in you.'"

"With her death, we both have had to put all our trust in Him or we would have literally broken from the weight of the pain," said Maria's dad. "This journey is so much bigger than us . . . We are waiting and trusting in His plan, knowing that this trusting in Him will be far greater than anything else we could do."

Maria's mom said, "We have the choice to allow suffering to consume us or to give it to God and allow Him to transform us, others, and the world. Death does not have the last word," she said. "And this is what gives us hope to move forward each day."

God carries those in need

It is in our moments of deepest suffering, in the times of unfathomable pain and sorrow, that we can begin to truly turn toward God and allow Him to carry us.

The moment we recognize that we indeed control nothing, that we are mere infants who can do nothing in this world without Him, we begin our journey of understanding who God really is.

Suffering takes many forms, large and small. Whether we face the overwhelming loss of loved ones or live out difficult days with a terminal disease or deal with chronic conditions of depression or anxiety, or whether we tolerate small annoyances that assail our senses every day, we can pray for the grace to unite them all to the cross of Christ, who understands true suffering.

Accepting crosses

But courageously accepting our crosses does not mean just praying halfheartedly for grace. We need to cooperate with God, which means we need to have the disposition so that His grace can work in us.

This means truly letting go and abandoning all control to Him while offering our suffering as a sacrifice, just as Christ sacrificed Himself for us.

"There are many who love Christ," Maria's pastor said at her funeral, "but few who love Christ's cross." Yet we must love the cross as Christ did, he said.

This is the sentiment that especially hit Maria's mom in a quote from St. Josemaria Escriva in the Holy Rosary: "See how lovingly Jesus embraces the Cross. Learn from Him. Jesus carries the Cross for you: you . . . carry it for Jesus. But don't drag the Cross . . . Carry it squarely on your shoulder, because your Cross, if you carry it so, will not be just any Cross: it will be . . . the Holy Cross.

"Don't bear your Cross with resignation: resignation is not a generous word. Love the Cross. When you really love it, your Cross will be . . . a Cross, without a Cross." Every day Maria's parents strive to love their cross, for Jesus, with Jesus, through Jesus. May we learn from them and strive to do the same.

For Maria's entire story, visit mariastory.mesch.us

Julianne Nornberg, mother of four young children, is a member of St. John the Baptist Parish, Waunakee.