Our gospel this week features the cross. Christ says that we must renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. No one can escape crosses in life, but if we bear with them in Christ then they can be turned to gold. We are to follow him through all the hard trials of life. Lets confess where we fail to do so..
“He who lives more lives than one/More deaths than one must die”, a famous poem says. Its true. I remember when my brother was nineteen he wanted his own business. Everyone told him he was too young, that he was throwing away a good job; it was dangerous to venture out on his own. He ignored them and took the risk of founding a company. Shortly afterwards the firm he had been working for collapsed. He went on to establish a highly successful company that employs many still. His was a hard decision; he had to die to security and follow his deeper call.
Life is a series of risks and deaths. The womb was our first tomb. We emerged from its comfort crying into the harsh reality of life. Then there was death to childhood, painful coming of age. Then death to single comforts and multiple partner choice so as to give ourselves totally to one spouse and to children. So also religious give up family and property to risk all for God. And celibate priests die to many desires to serve Christ fully. All crucial bridges in life we must cross without a safety net.
That’s what Christ means when he says we must take up our cross. As Christians we must die to self continually if we’re to be holy, we must take the risk of giving for God and others. As such today’s gospel is a challenge to our modern ethos, which says pamper self at all costs, shun sacrifice. You know that ad that used to be on TV; the child shouts at his mother “Where’s my Liga”. She answers apologetically: “children today, so demanding”. Yet a self-centered way doesn’t give joy in the long run. There’s more life in the faithful partner in marriage, the enclosed religious, the celibate priest, the lay person working without reward for the Vincent De Paul. Sure it doesn’t bring instant gain or pleasure but deep down it satisfies the soul. Christ, the best of all, gave himself fully on the cross of love. But first he had to resist the lure of selfish wealth, pleasure, and glory, the temptations of Satan in the desert. That’s why he said to Peter who wanted to keep him from the cross, get behind me Satan. He had to die to self to bring all humanity to life.
We, his followers, must do the same. Christ says: “if anyone wants to be a follower of mine let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me”. For make no mistake, like Christ, if we are true to God to redeem the times, the world will make us suffer. It will attack us as it did Christ, but we will have more enduring happiness. In that sense every Christian is called to live the passion of Christ in his or her own life. As the saying goes “There are no crown-bearers in heaven who were not first cross-bearers on earth”. Yet the greatest freedom is to do what is right regardless of the cost. This Sunday we’re challenged to do just that, to follow Christ in self-giving faith and love through all the trials and sufferings of life so as to turn them into gold. For that’s the way to not only save our own souls but bring life to a spiritually dead world. Dying to baser selves, serving God and others on the cross of real love and self-giving, we’ll find fullness of life here, and with Christ and all other holy and selfless souls forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s own, taking up the cross daily of loving service of God and others even unto intense suffering, we profess our faith.
Prayers of the Faithful
And as God’s holy people, lets pray to our Heavenly father for all our needs..
For the church throughout the world and its leaders, that they may carry joyfully the cross of humble service of the faithful and be true suffering witnesses to truth before the world..
For civil leaders, may their leadership and service of the people may be carried out in self-giving integrity and dedication..
For our youth that they may not be afraid to take up the crosses involved in dedicated service of God and others in the church..
For parents and married couples, that they may bear the cross of loving service of their children, and be faithful in marriage through all trials and temptations the world throws at them..
For the sick and housebound that through our visits, company and caring help they may be consoled in their sufferings, and offer them up, if unavoidable, to redeem the world..
For the dead that through our prayers they may come to rest and peace from all suffering..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ who on the cross gave even his soul for the salvation of the world, amen.
In that film, the last temptation of Christ, He is tempted to get down from the cross, marry Mary Magdalene and forget about saving the world. In imagination he does so. He lives with her and their children as a carpenter. But years later his apostles come to him and say: “why did you leave us down so badly”. Christ rejects the imaginary temptation then. It was the same temptation Satan offered in the desert, to put himself and his desires first. All of us, celibate priests or religious, those with marriage vows, those scrimping for their children’s education, can face a similar temptation, to give up, put self first. But that’s an empty illusion. Lets be wise and see that the cross of doing what’s right is infinitely more satisfying. Lets ask Mary, who stood by her son’s cross to help us in this..Hail Mary