Jean François Millet, a French Realist Painter, painted that beautiful work of art that many of us are familiar with. The painting depitcts two pesants bowing in a field over a basket of potatoes, to say a prayer: the Angelus. Shortly before he painted this masterpiece, he wrote in his diary: ‘we only have enough paraffin for heating that will last a few days’. From the hands that were so cold to hold the artists brush, the result was one of the most important masterpieces of the 19th century. When we read the Old Testmanet we find many great figures, men and women. One of these is King David, a great warrior, a very popular King among his people. As years went by, people wished that someone like David would come again, a new King David who would restore the pride and dignity that they had lost. When Jesus came, it was understandable that they would say that this is the new King David. But Jesus did not come for this; he came to build a kingdom of justice, of love, forgiveness and goodness. The apostles found this hard to accept. They did not want to see Jesus suffer, they did not want to see him die, they did not want to take up their cross and follow him. They wanted the easy way. They wanted a salvation of miracles and not of suffering. They wanted Jesus to change his plans, but Jesus was not for turning. Oscar Wilde wrote, in what must be one of the most beautiful lines of poetry ever written, “Where sorrow is, there is holy ground.” And in another beautiful line, he wrote, “How else but through the broken heart May the Lord Christ enter in?” When Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him, he is not asking us to be unhappy; that is the last thing that he would want. But he is reminding us that there will be moments of difficulty, pain and suffering. We have all experienced this. We may loose a person whom we love very much, and it breaks our heart, difficulties in our families, setbacks with our health. When this happens we know we are not alone. Jesus is carrying our cross with us. When these moments come and we may even ask: ‘what have I done to deserve this’, let us keep our eyes on Jesus who is walking with us. This may not take away the pain but it will give us great strength, and give great meaning to the days of suffering in our lives.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him, and he questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me. The Lord replied, “My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”