There is a sign that someone made on oak tag and hung outside their cubicle in my office. It reads simply “keep moving forward.” It is a simple yet profound exhortation. “Keep moving forward.” Maybe the person who wrote it is trying to dissuade people from stopping and chatting. I like to think of it as an inspirational slogan. Keep moving forward.
I have noticed that sometimes in life, people get stuck because of fear, or comfort, or negativity. They cannot seem to put it in gear and move forward. I’m not blaming them; sometimes getting stuck is not a person’s fault. Some people have never learned coping mechanisms; others are just paralyzed by fear.
On the other hand, Jesus was never paralyzed by fear. He kept moving forward and He brought the disciples forward with Him. Why was He able to keep moving forward? He had a mission and nothing was going to stop Him. We have a mission too, sometimes several, but we get caught in the muck and the mire. I think it is because, like the Apostles before Pentecost, we have little faith and fail to understand the meaning of trusting in Jesus. It isn’t easy, but can be less overwhelming if, with His grace, we remind ourselves to keep moving forward.
Face Trials With Determination
There are several scenes of Jesus’ life portrayed in art and movies that I love. It is the “keep-moving-forward” Jesus that people forget as they are traveling through that dark valley. I have a painting of Jesus being carried by an angel to Calvary. Jesus and the angel are in the foreground, Calvary is in the distance, and both Jesus and the angel carrying Him are looking intently toward Calvary. They are looking forward with determination, not fear or trepidation. I try to keep that image in my mind as I am experiencing something in my life that is difficult to deal with and manage. It encourages me to identify the mission and keep moving forward.
The next image of Jesus that is so helpful to me in times of crisis was portrayed in The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. Jesus, portrayed brilliantly by James Caviezel, falls to the ground while carrying the heavy cross to Calvary. The Blessed Mother is following Him in His agony, suffering her own agony. Flashbacks of Jesus as a boy come to her mind. She sees Him fall now on the Way of the Cross and she remembers when He fell as a boy. She ran to Him then and she runs to her Son now. He is bloody, in agony, a prisoner. She looks at Him and tells Him “I am here.” It is one of the most heartbreaking yet powerful scenes in cinematic history. He is beaten, bloody, almost unrecognizable, as Scripture foretold, “a worm and no man” (Psalm 22:7).
He looks up at Our Lady and proclaims the words of Revelation yet to be written: “See mother, I make all things new.” Then as dramatic music playing in the background gets louder and louder, Jesus grabs hold of His Cross with renewed strength, and rising up in power, majesty and glory that only we who have the benefit of knowing His Resurrection can recognize, He, God, keeps moving forward, still carrying His Cross.
Arise in the Power of Christ
These images give me strength. When I find myself bowed down under the weight of my own cross, I place myself there, on the way to Calvary with Jesus and Mary. I think of that scene. St. Patrick’s Lorica comes to my mind. I hear St. Patrick pray boldly:
“I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me; God’s might to uphold me…”
Therefore, when your cross is too heavy to bear and your world seems to be crashing in all around you, STOP! Just stop. Take a breath. Focus on that scene with Jesus rising up. Arise in the power of Christ.
Jesus loves you, He suffers with you, and most importantly, He suffers in you too. Jesus takes on not only our sins and the punishment due for them, but He actually takes on our sufferings too. He suffers what we suffer. He suffers in us. You may feel alone in your suffering, but you are not alone. I can assure you that Jesus is with you, no matter who you are or how good or bad you think yourself.
Suffering Produces Character
So when bowed down under the weight of your personal cross, arise in the power of Christ, pick up your cross and keep moving forward. There will be relief at the end of the valley. The journey will be rough, but like gold tested in fire, you will come out stronger as long as you remain faithful in the end.
Throughout history, holy men and women have given us great examples of this endurance and its rewards. One such story that remains largely unheard is that of Father Augustus Tolton, the first black priest in the United States, a man who kept moving forward amid tremendous obstacles. Another hero of mine, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, also started life as a slave, and similarly persevered in courage and generosity despite the world’s contempt and his personal sufferings. Learning the powerful stories of heroic characters like these, and calling on them to help us as we face our own tribulations, can strengthen us to follow their example, and in time triumph as they did.
St. Paul’s counsel to the suffering faithful is straightforward: “Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Romans 5:3-5). Hope is the second greatest gift, between faith and love. So when you are suffering, arise in the power of Christ and keep moving forward in faith and trust in Jesus.