The Gospel for this Friday reminds us once again of the role of redemptive suffering in the life of the Church and in the life of every member of that assembled body. The image of Jesus hanging on the cross reminds each and every one of us that this life is not "about us." Our lives are about something far greater and far more important than my needs, my wants, or my desires. We are created for and continue to live for "the Other." As the years pass and we grow older, we very quickly begin to realize that our time on this earth is short. None of us knows how many years have been given to us. However, we all know that they are limited. If we wish to live forever, we must spend the time that has been given to us for the sake of others.
The admonition to "take up" our cross is most definitely a post-Resurrection notion. Jesus would not have used this image in his preaching before the fact of his crucifixion. This form of capital punishment was so shameful that it could only have been spoken of so positively after the apostles had experienced Jesus' death and resurrection. So the evangelists include this admonition as the fruit of their reflection on what Jesus has accomplished. Just as Jesus had died for us, we are called to live for others by accepting whatever cross may come our way to, in the words of St. Paul, build up the Church. When we live for others, we gain eternal life.
Those of us who suffer from some chronic situation or disability have no difficulty discerning what our cross is. The task before us is not one of discerning God's will but of conforming our wills to that of our Creator. When we willingly accept God's will in our lives, we witness to the truth that this life is about "the Other." This is true happiness. As the years pass and as the glitter of this world fades, we will begin to understand the great love Christ has displayed through his death on the cross.