Take Up Your Cross

livemoreParents do not wish bad things to happen to their children. Good business people do not want the economy to go sour. Healthy people do not want illness. We don’t want it to rain on our picnic! We have a natural instinct to avoid what we perceive as bad for us. We want good things in life.
 
Yet we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus telling us to act contrary to our human instincts! He is telling us to lose our life; to deny ourselves; to take up the cross! No wonder Peter rebukes him. Jesus teaches his disciples to let go of the old self so a new self can be given. Jesus’ followers must deny themselves, let go of self-will, human way of thinking in order to find Life. And it will take a lifetime to embrace this new Life.
 
The challenge is to let go so God can lead us. We are called to surrender ourselves. This is not without cost to us: lose our impatience with others; lose our insistence on having our own way; lose our desire to be comfortable with the familiar to move us toward new Life. In all of these and many other we are allowing God to refashion us into new selves imbued with new Life in Christ.
 
 


Who Is the Greatest?

What happens when we are caught with our hand in the proverbial cookie jar? Our face turns red, our heads drop, our eyes are cast down and we are silent. So we can easily identify with the disciple’ silence in the face of Jesus’ asking them what they are discussing.
 
Twice in this Gospel the disciples are reduced to silence. First, they are afraid to ask Jesus about his teaching that he must die and rise. Second, they are afraid to tell him that they have been arguing about who among them is the greatest. The first silence indicates a stubborn resistance to accept the demands of what they hear; the second silence indicates that they intuitively understand how far they have strayed from what Jesus is teaching them. The disciples spend the rest of their lives coming to understand what it means to follow Jesus and serve him through the least among us.
 

By dying to self and serving the least among us, we rise to new and great life. Dying to self doesn’t simply mean we write a check to our favorite charity or bring non perishables to St Vincent de Paul Society [as good as these gestures may be]. It means surrendering our very selves for others – all others- not just those of our own picking and choosing. It means reaching out to the least among us.
 

Like the disciples, Jesus gives us the room we need to grow and come to deeper understanding of what it means to be a faithful disciple serving others.