Carry Your Cross
Lilly said she is passionate about her Catholic faith. I just wanted to quiz her and asked what Jesus said about following him. She started to list love, justice fairness, kindness, and so on as identifying marks of discipleship to Jesus. But there was still something missing which is fundamental to Christian discipleship. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself”. To be a follower of Jesus requires sacrifices.
According to Mark, the location Jesus chose to tell about the need of self-sacrifice was the centre of the Roman imperial cult, Caesarea Philippi. The rock temple there and the atmosphere there was all about the power and glory of the emperor and those who worship him. The backdrop was the epitome of self-centredness, the opposite of self-sacrifice. Standing there, Jesus told his disciples that such displays may look like a great life, but in reality, those who put their trust in such things are losers. It is those who are prepared to lose their lives for others who will be real victors in the end.
In this COVID-19 lockdown, as good citizens we have been sacrificing our freedom for the common good of the society. Does it make us disciples of Jesus? As much as it is necessary and good, the inconveniences endured for health’s sake do not necessarily constitute religious sacrifice. Strict disciplines of exercise, time and diet are sacrifices for personal gratification. These disciplines though as they are do not have any religious merit. Whereas, reaching out to someone is the manifestation of the divine in you. When you offer your time, money and skill to help someone, you do it out of your love for them. You, as a disciple of Jesus, do it. Many of you bring me petitions and personal names to be offered at the altar. Because of your love for them you are prepared to make an offering towards the Mass. Similarly, as a mark of your gratitude to God who provides for you, you bring an offering to the Mass. That makes the Mass a sacrificial prayer for you. For a disciple who loves Jesus so much nothing will have priority over Jesus Christ. Even if it is not cool, your reputation is risked and job and money are at stake, for a disciple Jesus remains the priority. In such times of trial you are carrying your cross and walking after Jesus to where he has gone first. The greater your love for Jesus the easier such crosses will be for you.