Imagine the mountainside rising in front of you. Each step is a struggle. The trail leads up, but it’s your slipping feet holding you. The only other security is a chain-links connected to some poles in the rock. Even then, the chain sways back and forth as you grab on to it. You walk further up. Each step gets you closer to the top, your goal. You’re scared. You walk further up. Side-step for security. Hold on. You’re afraid, but somehow you make it to the top.
A few years ago, during Spring Break in 2015, I went to Zion National Park and hiked up to Angel’s Landing. More accurately, it was a climb. I came with my father, but his fear of heights caused him to stop partway and let me go on further. I was persistent on making in it to the top. You’d think I’d be afraid. I was scared out of my mind. Somehow, I made it.
It was one of the amazing feelings I have ever felt. I was so happy, yet so nervous. It was the satisfying culmination of all the accomplishments I made. I was grateful to God for every moment, everything leading up to it and everything after it. All the people I met, old and new. We celebrated all that we’ve learned. I hope for the best for the future. ‘
The future of that moment is where I am now. I was describing my graduation from the University of Texas in Austin just over 3 weeks ago. I want to tell some of the stories of the weekend and how that compares to now. Why I am writing this a little later is not a result of busyness, but rather recalling all that happened will help me deal with the mellow transition time that I’m in now and make it worth while just like my graduation. I have separated the weekend into two posts, this is the first one. The second one can be found by clicking this sentence when it’s finished. If there’s no link, I should be working on it.
No, let me explain. The phrase “Go Big or Go Home” is meant for you to pursue your dreams and became famous and well-known in your field or go home depressed. I think that following your dreams is not wrong, but I think we all need to take a new perspective on this phrase. Going home shouldn’t be the end of the journey, a fall from grace. Going home is part of the journey, a fall back to grace.
“Hail to the Cross, our only hope.” I have attributed this saying to St. Edith Stein, namesake of my home parish in Katy, but many others have made this Latin phrase their motto. This Lent, I have felt the call of the Cross. I interpret this call as to let Jesus to be present in our sufferings because he suffered and to have him help carry the cross that he calls us to take up with him. As this Lenten journey is almost concluded, I want to reflect on what is the cross I carry, how it compares to the Cross Jesus carried to Calvary, and that he is carrying my cross as well.
I first heard the call of the cross during daily Mass on the first Thursday of Lent. The gospel reading was from Luke. In this passage, Jesus predicts his passion, death and resurrection. Near the end, Jesus says
…If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?
– Luke 9:23-25
Inspired by one of the priests’ at the University Catholic Center, Fr. Larry Rice’s homily, I was allured by the thought that we have a daily choice to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. I have doubts, weaknesses, struggles and insecurities that would make it hard to believe. That in short, is my cross. I am called by God to carry my cross daily and follow him. Despite my struggles, if I want to follow Jesus as a true Christian, I will have to carry my cross with me.
But what makes my cross mine? There are many parts of my cross. I admit I know all about the Catholic faith, but words aren’t my strong suit. I doubt my words. I am concerned about my exactness in order to prevent myself from lying. I can’t lie that Jesus loves me. One thing I know for sure. Autism is not my cross, but adjusting to a world that isn’t tailored to me is part of my cross. God created me as an autistic. He created my brother as well, whom I have understood better with both of us being autistic in different ways. Another part of the cross is the experiences I’ve had, the sorrows of losing people, being hurt and having physical, emotional, and mental scars. Those scars have made me who I am and I’m thankful to God for those scars. I also have many anxieties when things don’t go to plan. If my schedule is off, if I delay in doing something, I have anxiety attacks. I am uncertain about my future and where I’ll go after college graduation in a month or so. These struggles make up my cross. I carry this cross as I choose follow Jesus and trust in Him.
The Cross Jesus carried during his passion was not just pieces of wood. It was the weight of our sins He carried. One of my favorite reflective prayers is the Stations of the Cross, found in many Catholic churches, which mark critical points on the Way of the Cross from Jesus being condemned to death, up to His eventual death on the Cross and His burial in the tomb. I remember going to Stations on Fridays during Lent when I was young, partially because Jr. High Youth Group was afterwards at my home parish. I also adored when the Senior High Youth Group would do “Living Stations of the Cross” on Good Friday and re-enact the scenes in the Stations. When I went to Stations of the Cross, I witnessed the 14 Stations, but also how much He suffered. Jesus suffered during His journey, and that affected those who he interacted with on the way, like His mother Mary, Simon, Veronica , some Jerusalem women, and Dismas. Each stations reflects on an element of my own personal life from all the falls, sorrows, love and mercy shown on the journey.
I like to go to Stations now even more that I understand what the Stations mean, and I try to go as often as I can. Reflecting on the Passion of Christ is a mystery. The graces that come from it never have a end point.
This Lent I struggled with being present. I was being distracted. I struggled with asking God to deliver me from the anxieties and uncertainty I have. I lay them down at the foot of the cross. I asked Jesus to deliver me, and heal me, just as the Blind Man did. He wanted pity and mercy and he received healing and mercy. I have to place my trust in God to deliver me from distractions and uncertainties.
I would say the apex of this call of the Cross is realizing that Jesus is carrying my cross with me. I struggle with being present, but I know God is present with me in the struggles. During Austin CARITAS, a mission I served on this Spring Break, I was called to be present, to put trust in God for my future and whatever may happen. I was called to serve and to do alms giving with my heart, not just money. I saw the journey I’m on is a pilgrimage towards Heaven, my true eternal home. I believe I see Heaven as in those moments with the community, when I have positive flashbacks to times of joy, love, and growth in God. It is in the people I love in the Mystical Body of Christ, I find a home where I am accepted and loved. During discussion, one song was brought up where it shows I accepted where I am. It sucks that I don’t know Spanish well because this song spoke to me despite not being my own language. It described being accepted and loved. The song is called, “Vida en Abundancia” or “Life in Abundance” The stanza in particular is shown below.
Amá lo que sos, y tus circunstancias. Estoy con vos, con tu cruz en mi espalda. Todo terminará bien, yo hago nuevas todas las cosas.
This stanza translates to “Love what you are, and your circumstances. I am with you, with your cross on my back. Everything will end well, I make all things new.” Jesus is with me, carrying my cross on his back. I cried the first time I heard the translation. I imagine Jesus looking at me, carrying my cross, just as he carried the Cross of my sins. He looks at me with love. I would now imagine he is saying with his loving eyes “Look at what I have done for you. I have died for love of you. What would you do for love of me?” I hope to die for Jesus. If I am called to die for Him, so be it. That is the call of the Cross.
Hello! (waves in an arch). I am a proud member of the Longhorn Pep Band. It’s both a great joy and a bit of a struggle to be a part of a high energy pep band for basketball and volleyball. The opportunity came to me a few semesters ago. I’m grateful for all the fun things that have occurred due to joining a fantastic part of the sports games at the University of Texas at Austin. After I tried and failed to get into Longhorn Band my first senior year, I decided to join the pep band to improve my playing ability and play my clarinet at volleyball and basketball games. What I got was both a struggle and a joy. It’s a sense of truly being a Longhorn at UT Austin.
In silence, God speaks. God is in the silence. About two weeks ago, I went on a Silent Retreat. Before and after the retreat, my friends Jacob, Andy (I’m not referring to myself, but another Andy) and I recorded a “podcast” If and when Jacob decides to post it, I will add it. Until then, here’s a link to his blog. https://grandhappeningsblog.home.blog/
I barely have time to get around to posting and whenever I attempt to write a blog post, it seems to just catalog events without their emotions. Plus, I resolved to post at least once a month at the end of last year. In order to defeat both my lack of emotion and my inconsistency with posting, (where’s January?), I write this post. Back to the story, this was the second time I went on a Silent Retreat. The first I have mentioned in my previous post, but this time was distinct and different.