There is one aspect of being autistic that I don’t always understand: masking. Masking is a way that autistics have tried to adapt to the neurotypical world. We see what ways non-autistics might communicate, through verbal and nonverbal communication, and we use what we see to blend in. Sometimes these skills are taught through personal experiences or bad therapy, but it puts on a false facade. It makes us look “normal”, but it’s not our normal. It isn’t an accurate display of autism.
“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.
I always carried a deck of cards in my backpack when I was in a high school. Why? Because you never know if you needed to play a game. Whether it was Maui, Egyptian Ratscrew, or Castle, I had the key to socialization. Pull out the cards during lunchtime and play a simple game. It can get my mind off it all. It was a quintessential part of who I was then. Today, I’m reminded of this fact while I’m meeting up with on of my oldest friends whom I played cards with, Michael.