The Cross is the means of salvation. When Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him, he is not talking about burden but about salvation. Unless we take up the Cross and see that the yoke is easy and the burden light, we will have no share in his Kingdom.
Therefore we hold it high and honor it because such a thing has set us free, free to live a life of love rather than a life of sin.
If we ever took the time to think about sin in its rawest form (and we should) we might attempt to convey what Dante does through his magnificent work - no glamor, no reward, no peace. The only joy, peace, fulfillment, and realization of being who we can be comes from God, not just at the end of our journey... but on every step along the way.
"But if you please, I would like to know how far we have to go; because the slope is steeper than my eyes can see.”
Then he said to me “This Mountain is such that, at the beginning it is hardest to climb; when you go on it gets better, the higher you ascend. And when it is so gentle, like floating downstream in a boat, you will be at the end of your path. There you can hope to rest from your troubles!"
― Dante, Purgatorio, IV 85-95