22nd Sunday A
Sacred Heart Church, Norwood
3rd September 2023
“Take up your cross daily”
What does taking up our cross daily entail for us in 21st Century Ireland? It is a critical question for all of us gathered here as we seek and desire to be true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. This truly is the very direct almost blunt challenge that Jesus invites us to take to heart this morning.
In some ways, how we answer this question about taking up the cross probably depends on our age. By that I mean those of us who are older are familiar with the language of the cross and what it means for us. The phrase of “offering something up” was understood – it has a whole spiritual understanding behind it. For someone much younger that may not be grasped in the same way.
It is helpful if we focus more intently on Jesus’ words of explanation.
“For if anyone wants to save his life will lose it
But anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”
This is the paradox of the Gospel – it turns the usual patterns of life and thinking upside down and it clashes with our everyday culture and thinking, a culture which pushes us to concentrate on ourselves, on our need, our goals my need, my goals. This narcissistic focus is only on themselves and we are never happy or satisfied.
Two great saints St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola have left us two beautiful prayers that enable us deepen that spirit and vision of Jesus in our lives.
“Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy” St. Francis
This is a wonderful vision of life which can be realised gradually in all our lives when we develop with God’s grace a willingness to think of the other before ourselves.
I mention St. Ignatius also – he captured so well the disposition we can realise through prayer, through a constant personal prayer.
“Teach us Lord, to serve you as you deserve
To give and not to count the cost
To fight and not to heed the wounds
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and not to ask for reward
Except that of knowing that we are doing your will”
My friends, there are so many strong cultural currents that lead us to believe that our well-being or being well comes from paying attention to ourselves alone – that our self-love will bring us happiness. Such thinking is dangerous because of the trap of self-indulgence. The cross in life is to embrace bravely and responsibly life’s challenges, sickness, addiction, anxiety, separation and loss.
In that sense we cannot by-pass the cross and crosses in life.
Our discipleship of Christ is a grace and blessing that strengthens and empowers us to make life’s journey in a spirit of unfailing hope.