When Christ asked his disciples whom his apostles think he is, Peter spoke for them and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Right after that, Jesus told them he, as Messiah, must go to Jerusalem where he must suffer, die, and be raised again on the third day.
The Pharisees and most of Israel expected the Messiah to be a warrior king who would lead his people into victory from their enemies. Because the prophets saw the Messiah coming from the line of David, it was natural for them to think God’s anointed would establish his kingdom through military victories the way David did.
But the Church of Christ, the embryonic Kingdom of God, was established not around political power, but around the cross. It was achieved through suffering and self-giving. It is no wonder that in order to be part of this kingdom, Christ asks us to take up our crosses daily and follow him. There can be no other way.
People ask why Christ allowed himself to be was baptized by John when he was sinless and needed no repentance. Scholars answer that a) Jesus acted as a model so we would be baptized like him, and b) Jesus sanctified the baptismal waters we would all be baptized in.
If Christ sanctified the water that touched him so we can be sanctified with it, then it wouldn’t be difficult to see how Christ also gave meaning to suffering, so that when we suffer we can give it meaning as well. By uniting our suffering with Christ’s, we “touch” the same suffering Christ “touched.” In this way, we become conformed and deeply connected to him.
When Christ said, “Take my yoke upon you,” he means us to join in his suffering. He does not mean to remove the yoke on his neck and put it on us, no. If you Google “yoke” you will see an image of a wooden crosspiece meant for two servile beasts. It is eerily similar to the crossbeam of the cross Christ was fastened to in obedience to the will of the Father. Can it mean that we are meant to partake of his suffering, not that we carry his pain, but that he carries ours? Can it mean we were meant to be “servile beast” as he was – always putting our obedience to God first?
Secular culture rejects this way of looking at suffering and service. Our modern culture only wants pleasure and shuns suffering. We know better. We know our life is but a journey to the true Promised Land in heaven. We know this earth is not heaven and so we must suffer. We don’t look for suffering, but when it comes, we know we can make it meaningful. We know Christ did not save us from suffering but through it. We know, just like David, Christ is a warrior that was victorious against our spiritual enemies: death and the attraction to sin – so must we go through the same suffering and death to resurrect with him.
Let us ask Our Lady, the Queen of Martyrs, to help us endure what displeasure this life throws at us. Let us ask her, the Queen of Angels, to send us her angels to keep us strong in times when suffering weighs us down. Let us ask her, the Mother of Our Savior, to resign ourselves to generously take Christ’s yoke upon our shoulders and help build his Church by participating in his suffering.