Ash Wednesday – March 5, 2014; Matthew 6:5-6
5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the solemn period of Lent, when we as Christians journey towards the cross (and Easter) with Christ.
It has been said that everyone “…has their own cross to bear”, meaning that most of us have burdens in life that we need to face and deal with; some may even consider being a single parent as a cross we must bear…as it can be a challenging experience, causing us a lot of work and worry as well as frustration!
But let us stop and think about what that phrase really means…what must it have been like for Jesus to have to bear his own cross?
It must have been incredibly difficult and painful for Jesus to literally carry his wooden cross towards the place of his execution; the way was rough and uneven and he was mocked along the way by the crowds as he struggled with the rough piece of wood upon which he would soon be hung! On top of it all he was suffering from critical injuries, inflicted upon him by the Roman guards…his body on the verge of collapse with every step!
Yet even in the midst of all this pain and struggle Jesus continued to move toward the cross!
But then Jesus was used to the struggle of ‘bearing his own cross’; in a way he had been journeying towards Golgotha since he was born…all the time carrying a ‘cross’ that grew heavier and heavier with each step he took! To say that Jesus did not live an easy life would be an understatement! His way in life was hard but he not only persevered, he thrived and did his most to enjoy life in spite of the many trials he faced!
We could say that Jesus did so well when it came to bearing his own cross because he was the son of God, and as such had some sort of magic, or special dispensation which allowed persevere…but I think there was more to his strength, as we are told of his very human moments of temptation, doubt and pain! What Jesus had going for him was the same thing we have going for us as we find ourselves called to bear seemingly impossible burdens: faith!
Jesus had faith that God was with him always, loving him, watching over him and immersing him in Grace!
Part of that Grace was that Jesus did not make his journey alone: not only was God with him, but he had many followers and friends who helped him to carry his burdens. Even on his final journey, as he dragged his cross towards the place of execution, amid the taunts of the crowd, the father of one of his followers stepped forward to help to lighten his burden.
So it is with us, although the term “single parent” implies that we have to carry the burdens of parenting all by ourselves, this is not necessarily the case, for we do not bear our crosses alone, as God is also with us every step of the way, not only directly through the Grace and love that is freely given to us, but also through the people in our lives of offer us love and support! It is this love and support that helps us to carry our own crosses as we walk along our journey and which help us to meet the many challenges that parenting and life can present to us.
And the good news is that our help is always close at hand, as close as a phone call or a text message! However, there are times when the phone can weigh 500 pounds, or when it just seems like no one is available; yet even at these times help is nearby…as close as a prayer! Prayer is a great gift, available at any time or place as pointed out in today’s Gospel we don’t just pray in church but can do it anytime our burden gets too heavy for us to carry it alone…we can pray out loud or quietly…what matters is that we do pray, and not to show-off our piety or faith to others, but make a sincere connection with God. Sometimes we make this connection together in the midst of worship, and other times in quiet moments of joy or struggle, gratitude or fear!
Through prayer we are always connected to God’s love and Grace; connected to the power that gave Jesus the strength he needed to carry his cross, and all of us who have followed him to walk in his footsteps, and to support each other along the way. It is this love and support that enables us to bear our burdens as single parents, and which nourishes our faith we hope that whatever challenges we may face along the way, we will never have to face them alone!
Let us Pray:
God thank you for giving us your love and hope so freely! We also thank you for giving us the gift of prayer, a way for us to connect with you and with each other when our crosses become to heavy for is to bear. Help us to reach out to you and to each other during times when being a single parent can seem overwhelming, and to not be afraid or reluctant to ask for help; immersed in your Grace we are never separated from your love and support.