JESUS SPEAKS OF TAKING UP OUR CROSS
(A biblical reflection on the 23rd Ordinary Sunday [Year C] – 4 September 2016)
Gospel Reading: Luke 14:25-33
First Reading: Wisdom 9:13-18; Psalms: Psalm 90:3-6.12-14.17; Second Reading: Philemon 9-10.12-17
Now great multitudes accompanied Him; and He turned and said to them, “If any one comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:25-33 RSV)
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of “taking up our cross”. The Father of English Literature, Geoffrey Chaucer [1343-1400], observed that “he who wants a dear thing must give up a dear thing”. That is to say, you cannot have real love without equally real self-discipline. Doctors, musicians, artists, scientists, authors, teachers, inventors – all have come to realize that greatness only comes with self-discipline.
Honest work is a heavy cross, but it is accepted gladly for the love of the goal to which it leads. Spiritualize this truth, and you have the daily cross of which Jesus speaks. He gave up all else to pursue His great love, the Father’s plan of redemption. Christ Jesus …… “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).
The daily cross is the expression of love. A genuine love makes a person “deny himself” and follow Christ, for love makes him give up all that interfere with the pursuit of the beloved. Petty self-love considers every small annoyance or reversal a “daily cross”, in which the mistaken “martyr” can indulge her or his self-pity. Really, most of the small troubles and dislikes which we consider great sacrifices are expressions of our selfishness. We exaggerate our tiny ill feelings into great artificial crosses. If we were truthful, we would see them as mere slivers, shavings, sawdust that fall here and there from the cross. But they are not the cross; they are the crude signs of our weakness.
The cross Jesus carried and asks us to carry is the life of Christian love itself, the great “baptism” toward which His whole life was directed. The cross is our state of life, our apostolate, our daily duties, our marriage, our family, our teaching, our nursing, our studies, our job – whatever work of unselfish love and devotion God has given us. The small daily vexations are only the shadows cast by that great cross, for the cross is the towering tree of overwhelming love. It is that great “dear thing” for which all other “dear things” are given up with joy.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, the triumph of Your cross is the triumph of Your perfect love. Blessed is Your most precious name, forever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 2 September 2016
A Christian Pilgrim