Holy Week begins as it will end: in triumph. We see the fleeting triumph of Palm Sunday and it’s followed the lasting triumph of Easter Sunday.

In between is a strange mixture of joy and pain; of sorrow and fear, known to all of us human beings. At some point or another, most of us carry a cross. We sometimes wish life was like a bowl of cherries. But we know all too well that the real situation is often the exact opposite.

We may talk as much as we like about joy, contentment and peace. But only a fool believes that Christians have the recipe for a trouble-free golden future.

The truth is, we don’t. Common sense tells us that human life – yours and mine – is at times complex, confusing, even tragic. At this very moment, you are near to someone who is carrying some kind of a cross.

There is a husband or a wife who has lost a beloved partner. Couples who long for children, but whose hopes remain unfulfilled.

There are others, young and old, who are crippled by disease or badly injured by accidents. Those who suffer from depression and mental illness. There are those who feel unloved and unwanted, and even unlovable.

Each Sunday, a great number of people come together as a Church to worship. The gathering represents a cross-section of society. That means there are some who carry around within themselves burdens; terrible mistakes of the past. Ones that may have diminished them, or damaged others.

To imagine that we are a group of perfect Christians is foolish. Most of us have problems.

Whatever your problems, as crushing as they might seem, must not prevent you from being a Christian. The Church is not a club for the respectable and the clean. God is not just the God of the normal; of the Saints. He is the God of everybody.

There is nothing that can change God’s love for us. He accepts us as we are, even though many of our fellow Christians may not see it that way. And we are the ones who sometimes have difficulty in accepting ourselves.

There is truth to the saying, “No cross, no crown.” We can use our sufferings to become the person God wants us to be. If used correctly, suffering can enable us to know ourselves and to get outside ourselves. It can mature us into the fullness of being human.

The type of suffering the cross in our lives brings does not matter. How we react to it is the most important thing.

Jesus did not shy away from suffering. His was a literal cross, and He showed us how to deal with it. Take hold of it with both hands, grab it and wrestle with it.

As we begin Holy Week, it reminds us that suffering is a journey with a goal. Not an endless road that leads nowhere. The end of the journey is the resurrection – a new kind of existence.

Yet, none of us like the cross. But remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They had left Jerusalem, left the cross. Put the suffering and pain in the rearview mirror.

We all like to do that. The trouble is, when we walk away from suffering, when we walk away from the cross, we miss the resurrection.

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