Monday, July 14, 2014

“No cross, no Christian”

“The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, “This is love.” God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, “This is love.”

Gospel Text: (MT 10:34-11:1)
Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

What is Jesus telling us when he tells us to take up our cross and follow him?

He does not mean it literally nor does he expect us to go looking for crosses to bear. There are plenty that come our way as a part of life, some small and others that wound us to the core. He wants us to carry our crosses as he carried his, keeping in mind that he asked his father to “take this cup away” but ultimately accepted his Father’s will. We also can ask the Father for relief from suffering for ourselves and for others while being open to his will. As Jesus struggled with carrying the cross, he fell under its weight three times and understands that at times our burdens will be too much for us also. His mother was there to strengthen him with her love and compassion; so also can we derive strength from the love of friends and family. He needed and accepted assistance from Simon of Cyrene and the comfort offered by the women of Jerusalem and Veronica.

For some of us it may be difficult to accept help and comfort from others especially strangers, but Jesus shows us the way. It is not just his example of suffering that he offers us, but he also shows us how to accept the love, assistance and comfort offered by others so that we might be worthy of him.

We must be convinced that there is only one Jesus, and he is the crucified Jesus who rose from the dead. Christianity without the cross is not Christianity; only through the cross of Jesus have we gained salvation.

The Cross is more than a symbol, more than a sign. It is a summons to us to live our lives in sacrificial self-giving, in self-emptying love just as did the One who hangs there nailed on the Cross. No wonder, than, that we want to bury it under our own modern statues to “Venus” and “Jupiter” as did the ancient Greek and Rome civilizations. When you think about it, are we any different from them?

Jesus on the Cross is a sign of contradiction, a sign that contradicts the message of the world that surrounds us. It is also a sign of liberation, of freedom. The Cross tells us that if we live life as Jesus did, if we live in His way, His truth and His life we will find a freedom that this world cannot give. For God has called us to “live in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God”, to live a life highly exalted, a life above and beyond anything this world’s “gods” and “goddesses” can ever hope to offer us.

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