Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Your Cross, My Cross

Published in the Fiji Times, "Off the Wall with Padre James," Wednesday, 4th Apri;, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Jeju Island with the rest of the church staff of Gaepo Methodist Church, my sponsors and hosts.
Jeju is Korea's largest island, located in the Korea Strait. It is volcanic island, dominated by Hallasan (Halla Mountain): a volcano 1,950 metres (6,400 ft) high and the highest mountain in South Korea. The island measures approximately 175 kilometres (109 mi) across, end to end, at the widest points, 75 kilometres (47 mi) in length and 64 kilometres (40 mi) in width. 

It has a humid subtropical climate, warmer than that of the rest of Korea, with four distinct seasons. Winters are cool and dry while summers are hot, humid, and sometimes rainy. There is a crater lake which is the only crater lake in South Korea. Even though it was cool and the ocean is too cold to support a reef, when I stood in the sun and looked out to sea, I felt like I was back home!

We only spent a day and a half on the island, but I was able to enjoy a wonderful 3-hour walk along the south coast of the island, visit an amazing place known as the Glass Castle, visit the Youth With A Mission University of Nations, where they have, among other programmes, a Discipleship Training School (DTS). 
I also enjoyed some great local seafood (shellfish, fresh and raw fish, etc).

The highlight of my trip was the St. Isidore Centre, wonderful Catholic community merging agriculture and contemplation. They have a special meditation path which has large bronze sculptures portraying the life and ministry of Jesus. 
I spent some time meditating on the fourteen Stations of the Cross, which depict the Passion of Jesus. The Stations are also known as Via Dolorosa or Via Crucis and originated in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make a spiritual pilgrimage of prayer, through meditating upon the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death. It is an important part of the devotional life for Roman Catholics, and is often performed in a spirit of repatriation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during His Passion.

While there is a Via Dolorosa at the Methodist Theological University in Seoul that I often use for personal meditation, walking the Stations of the Cross at St. Isidore was a profoundly moving experience for me so close to the end of our Lenten journey and with such expressive sculptures.

One of the particularly moving pieces was the 5th Station of the Cross: Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross.

Two images haunted me. One was the cruelty in the face of a soldier assaulting a wounded helpless Jesus. The other was of Simon of Cyrene struggling to stand up under the weight of the cross.

One commentator describes the event: “Simon of Cyrene is on his way home, returning from work, when he comes upon the sad procession of those condemned ­ for him, perhaps, it was a common sight. The soldiers force this rugged man from the country to carry the Cross on his own shoulders. How annoying he must have thought it to be suddenly caught up in the fate of those condemned men! He does what he must do, but reluctantly.”

Often we don’t want to get involved with other persons’ business or we don’t want to step out of our comfort zone. We see people in need, struggling with burdens, their eyes if not their voices screaming out to us for help. We ignore their plight. We say, “its not my problem.” Often in our country we are quick to help in times of great communal need, like during this time of disaster. We are not so quick to do so for people in individual moments of crisis. We do not readily take time to think what it would be like to be in that situation.

The flip side is also true. Often we are not willing to share our loads. We insist on bearing the burdens of life, justice etc by ourselves. We stumble with the load and the difficult road; we and fall and because we are too stubborn to let others help, often we cannot get back up.

The idea of the Saviour of the World unable to stand under the weight of the world’s sin and of a normal human being taking up His Cross is a powerful reminder for each of us, no matter how weak and  insignificant we may be or how unrelated we may be to the other, the suffering, the needy.

We are not just called to carry our own cross. Sometimes, maybe often, we are called to put our cross down and help others carry theirs. This gives us the faith that when we are struggling with ours, someone will help us too.

As our country struggles from this latest and possibly greatest of natural disasters, all who are fortunate to be less affected that others need to join hands with those whose lives have been shattered. We do so in the knowledge that if it happened to us they would do the same.

May you have a safe and blessed Easter.

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”.

Rev. Bhagwan is currently a Masters in Theology student in Seoul, South Korea. Visit the blog: http// or

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