Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

At the crossroads of the narrow way during Lent

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published February 23, 2024

“You can’t have Christ without the cross.” This line came from a sermon by Father Elias Dorham, the new pastor at St. John Chrysostom Melkite Catholic Church in Atlanta. The statement is shocking in a way, when we realize how far many of us have drifted from what Jesus saw as the essentials of discipleship. 

He meant it when he said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). But the cross means suffering of many kinds, and how often we run away from it. Who wants to carry a cross, when that means serious illness or a relationship break-up? It’s tempting to run away from the cross by drinking, taking drugs, overeating and overspending.  

Still, the cross is the one thing Jesus clearly demands of us, assuming we want to draw closer to him. A friend recently visited Prague, and the tour guide boasted that the country was largely atheistic. Many of the churches had been turned into nightclubs, which seems a fitting example of dwindling discipleship.   

Ah, but even people who call themselves Christians sometimes say, “Jesus, I want to follow you, and be your disciple, but I don’t want to suffer. I’m nice to my neighbors and kind to animals. Isn’t that enough?” 

Jesus didn’t die on the cross to teach us we must be nice people. After all, even atheists can be nice people. They are kind to their neighbors and take care of animals. When suffering hits them, they figure it’s a stroke of bad luck and nothing more. They don’t see any value in suffering, which is why some countries are legalizing euthanasia. When we don’t have Christ and the cross, suffering is meaningless, so why not do away with people plagued by it?  

Jesus pointed out the path to heaven: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7: 13-14). The narrow way means surrendering to God’s will, whether it means diseases, disabilities, divorce, death.  

Some crosses are visible, such as the ravages of illnesses and aging. Others are invisible, such as the shattered hearts of parents grieving a child’s death. The cross can be so painful we might be tempted to commit suicide to escape it. How many people take their own lives, because their suffering is unbearable and they don’t think they can stand one more minute? It’s only when we realize the cross leads to glory that we can withstand its weight.  

During Lent, we fashion a cross and give it to Jesus as a love offering. Some refrain from overeating, overspending and selfishness. Some become more attuned to the suffering of other people. The other day I was packing my groceries into my car, when I spotted a woman laboriously pushing her empty cart toward the return area. When I offered to take the cart, her face brightened. “This is a great gift,” she said. Such a small thing, and yet it made a big difference.  

Suffering brings us to the crossroads of the narrow way. The people walking on this path carry their crosses without groaning and moaning about how unfair it is. I certainly broadcast my woes, when the cross of widowhood was hoisted across my back. It seemed like no one in the history of the world had ever carried such a painful cross. Now I look around and see much bigger crosses and people carrying them with grace and peace.  

We will probably fall under the weight of our crosses during Lent. Each time, we can get up, dust ourselves off and ask Jesus for help. When he fell, he was beaten and mocked. When we fall, we have his grace to sustain us. It’s really true that we can’t have Jesus without the cross—and we can’t carry the cross without him.  

Artwork is by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef ( Lorraine’s email address is