23rd Sunday of OT Year C 2016:
Interesting message from Jesus today. He wants to make sure that we know what we are getting into. If we want to be followers of Jesus, that means that we have to place him before all else. Nothing can come before our relationship with Christ. Not our families, not our possessions, not even ourselves: we have to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.
Now we all know that we are supposed to follow Jesus. But, why? Why would we go through all this? Sometimes it’s really good to remind ourselves just why we are getting into this in the first place.
Remember, Jesus came to be our savior. He wants to give us new life. Jesus did not come to say that the life we have now is just fine. Right now we experience pain and suffering; we mourn and grieve; we sin and we experience the sins of others. Jesus came to us because he wants to give us ever so much more. He wants to make our lives better, not worse. He did not come to be a part of our broken world. Rather, he came to remake this broken world. The path to this new life is the cross. So, if we want this new life, we have to pick up our crosses.
I don’t think many of us have to look very far to know what our crosses are do we? I know that in my own life, it’s been a crazy few weeks. We had the broken water main in school and the AC hasn’t been working in Church since April. We have had an unusually high number of funerals. I’ve had 9 funerals in the past 2 weeks. So, I’ve been meeting people who are experiencing a great deal of grief and pain. Plus, there are a number of families that I know are going through tough times. There are families dealing with sickness. Some families with marital difficulties. There are families with financial difficulties. Even in my own family, my grandpa is struggling with dementia. I’m sure that each and every one of us could list something in our life that qualifies as a cross. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him. But, he never said it would be easy. In fact, in today’s gospel he goes out of his way to tell us just how hard it will be.
But, if we don’t remember why we are doing it, we won’t be successful. As I just mentioned, Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow him because he wants to give us new life, he wants to heal us and fix our brokenness. So, we know why Jesus is calling us. But, why do we follow him? What is going to make you pick up your cross and follow Jesus? Will we do it simply because we know it is the right thing to do? Maybe sometimes, but probably not all the times. If following Christ is just a duty, it will be like following the speed limit. You know you SHOULD do it. But, if you are running late… who knows. It doesn’t work like that for Christ. If we are going to follow him, we need to follow him all the time, not just when it is convenient. So, what enables us to carry our crosses? The answer is love.
Jesus gives us the greatest example. He was the first one to lift the cross, to carry it for us. He gave his life as a ransom. He picked up his cross and laid down his life. Why? Because he loved us so much. Think about other examples of courage. Why does a mother get up in the middle of the night to sit with a sick child? Love. Why does a soldier jump on a grenade to shield his fellow-soldiers? Love. Why did Mother Teresa pick up the poor, the sick, the lonely, the untouchables and take care of them? Love. As I’m sure you all know, Mother Teresa is being canonized this weekend in Rome. Her life is a great example of picking up the cross and following Jesus. The things she did were amazing. But, the reason she did them was simple: her love for God and her love and respect for human persons.
So, where are you at when it comes to carrying your cross? Are you able to do it every day, or do you treat it like the speed limit? Look to the example of Mother Teresa. For her, carrying the cross was not some abstract rule, or sterile duty. For her, carrying the cross was an act of love of Jesus Christ. And now she is a great saint and she is living with God forever. The same thing can happen to us. So, let’s ask St Mother Theresa to pray for us. That we might be filled with love like she is. Love for God, and love for those who are most in need. One little woman did great things because of love. Imagine what could happen if the whole church was filled with disciples of Christ who were filled with that same kind of love.