One day, a great prince from a faraway kingdom came to a very remote and poor village. There was great rejoicing at his arrival. The people of the village welcomed him warmly and arranged a great feast. The prince stayed with the people of that village for some time; loving them, caring for them, eating with them, and sharing stories of his Father’s Kingdom with them.
He shared one last meal with the villagers. He explained that the time had come for him to go back to his Father. He promised to prepare a place for them, and invited each one to follow after Him. He explained that there would be great rejoicing in His Father’s kingdom upon their arrival.
Before He left, He gave instructions to the village’s wise man, instructions for the people to follow, in order to enter His Father’s Kingdom. The Prince also left a supply of crosses, and told the wise man that anyone who would come and follow after Him, would need to carry a cross with them in order to enter the kingdom.
After sharing a final meal with the people of the village, He left them and returned to His kingdom.
After a time, an elder of the village decided he would make the journey to the Prince’s kingdom. He went to the wise man who explained the path he had to follow, and gave him one of the crosses, explaining that he would need the cross with him in order to enter the kingdom.
The man began his journey, dragging the heavy cross into the woods along the path. It was very difficult for him to travel with the cross. After several hours of struggle, he came upon a woodcutter’s hut. And he devised a plan to make the journey easier. He went inside, grabbed an axe and used it to chop off a length from each beam. The shorter cross was easier to handle, and so he continued on his way.
It was late in the day when he reached the edge of a great river. He could see a beautiful kingdom on the other side. People there spotted him and began rejoicing at his arrival. They instructed him to place his cross over the river and use it to cross over into the kingdom. They would prepare a great feast for him. The man lay his cross down, but it was too short to reach to the other side. He fell with it into the water and disappeared in the current.
Some days later, another villager felt called to make the journey to the Prince’s kingdom. He went to visit the wise man and get instruction for his journey. The wise man gave him careful instructions for the journey and explained that he must carry a cross with him, because it would be required to enter the kingdom.
The man began his journey early the next morning, dragging the cross with him into the woods. He too found it very difficult to move forward while carrying the heavy cross. It was several hours before he came to the woodcutter’s hut. He came up with a plan to make his journey more bearable.
He went inside, found an axe, and split the beams of his cross to lighten its weight. He continued on his journey, much relieved about the less burdensome cross he carried. Finally, he came to a great river. He could see a great kingdom on the other side. Servants working in the fields there spotted him and began rejoicing. They shouted instructions to him to place his cross across the river and use it as a bridge to pass over the water. He lay the cross down, and began to walk over it, but the split beams were too weak to hold his weight. The cross broke and he was swept away in the current of the great river.
Several days later, a very frail old villager felt it was her time to make the journey to the Prince’s kingdom. She went to visit the village wise man. She carefully received the instructions and obediently accepted the cross. But it was all she could do to move the cross forward inch by inch. She began her journey at dawn the next day, and after many stops for resting she reached the woodcutter’s hut a day later. She went inside the cabin and saw all the axes and saws. And she was very tempted to shorten her cross, but then she reasoned, saying to herself, “No, I was given this specific cross for a reason. The wise man deliberated long and hard to choose just the right cross for me.”
She rested there for the night, and started out again the next morning. The cross was still heavy but she was refreshed from the night’s rest. And that day she even met a hiker who helped carry her cross for a time, she didn’t do it alone. It was late afternoon when she came to the edge of the great river. She could see a beautiful kingdom on the other side. The people who had been working in the fields saw her and began to rejoice. They called to her and told her to place her cross over the river, and use it to come over to their side. The frail woman laid the cross over the river and walked over it to reach the other side. There, they wrapped her in fine robes and prepared a feast for her. The Prince and His Father welcomed her and gave her a place that they had prepared just for her.
Pick up your cross and follow the way of Jesus, His cross, our cross is the bridge to Heaven.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley