Gospel Commentary: Take Up Your Cross

The Scripture readings, proclaimed at Sunday Masses over the past few months, have focused on the commitment and conviction of the followers of the Lord. Consistently, Jesus tells His listeners the same thing, "Those who wish to follow me must take up your cross and follow in my footsteps." In the gospel that was read three weeks ago, (Lk.12:49-53) Jesus referred to the family relationships as He does in the gospel reading for this Sunday. Again he stresses that His followers must be able to turn their back on mother, father, brothers and sisters. Jesus' words, though direct and to the point teach a value and should not be the basis for a lack of charity or arrogance. They should not be taken literally. Jesus is trying to teach the people that everything must lead to the Lord. All relationships should draw us closer to God and not pull us away from him. Yet, if we examine the people with whom we associate, we can probably find a few relationships that do not really help us on our pilgrimage to the Lord. The Lord declares that we must take up our cross. So often we understand this cross to mean some specific problem or difficulty such as a terminal illness, family or job crisis, or situation that is extremely painful and generally outside of our self. The cross that Jesus refers to, though, is the cross that we bear by living and proclaiming the Christian way of life, whether it impacts the interior or exterior of our life. If we truly live up to the calling to follow the Lord we experience a certain amount of rejection from some people and, very often, an inner struggle that is within ourselves. It is so easy to conform ourselves to the age in which we live. It is much easier to go along with the crowd rather than stand up for the values and principles that the Lord would want us to uphold. Our pride and need to control become major obstacles to our relationships with God and one another. They whittle away at our inner peace. We are so caught up in wanting to be needed or needing to be loved or affirmed, that we compromise our beliefs and, at times our commitments, because of the attention that we seek. Within our very beings, we struggle with sin. We can be torn apart by wanting to be a good, moral person yet get caught up in some sins which arise out of a condition of shame, fear, guilt or inner discontentment or self-hatred. This cross is far too common among people. How well are we really doing in carrying our cross at home, at work, at school or among friends? Are we always measuring our input into the home or office by comparing ourselves to people who are not putting forth their best effort? Are parents getting so caught up in providing for their children that they forget to give the children the most important thing, their individual attention? Are children taking what they get at home and school for granted and not doing their share of caring for each other and the house? Are spouses taking each other for granted because of self-centeredness? Are we afraid to be identified as Catholics at work or at school because of what others may think or fear of loosing our job? We do not need to look very far to determine whether we are embracing the crosses that life puts before us. There is no need to look for something out of the ordinary. The cross we bear for being a disciple of Christ is with us and within us each and every moment. Jesus has called us to be active followers. If we are only concerned with being Christian there are hundreds of Christian Churches. For us, who have received the gift of faith in the Catholic Church, our lives must be characterized by a firm decision to follow the way of life of the Catholic Church. In every other circumstance, we calculate and plan our everything even the future. If we are planning on reaching heaven, are our plans having a positive effect on the way we are living? If not, why not? Fr. Verrecchia is pastor of All Saints Parish in Manassas.
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