18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, Year II

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that the cross is a part of our life whether we want it or not, and what matters is how we face it and why we face it. No matter how often we try to accumulate things in order to ensure  comfort, something prevents it from happening. Some people are wealthy, or healthy, or in charge of their lives, yet they feel something is missing. Our Lord reminds us today that we can have the whole world, yet not possess what is truly important: an enduring and fulfilled life. That enduring and fulfilled life doesn’t exist in this world, yet this world is the path to it. It depends on how we live in this world.

Our Lord teaches us today that the only way to achieve what we truly desire is to take up our cross for the sake of a higher cause: his cause. It’s no coincidence that in this same reading he speaks of the impending arrival of the Kingdom of God: with his very Incarnation the Kingdom has arrived, and on the Cross it begins to achieve fruition as the “conquered” becomes the conquerer of sin and death. Nahum in today’s First Reading describes the point of arrival: peace for the People of God, security forever, and the destruction of evil. He describes Israel (Jacob) as a vine that was damaged by ravagers, but not destroyed: it was pruned by sufferings, yet it endured. Our Lord was ravaged on the cross, but not defeated, and from that Tree of Life an enduring and fulfilling life is made possible, if we take up his cause and imitate him. The alternative is the ravaged world described by Nahum in the second part of today’s reading: the more we seek fleeting things, the more we flee from our crosses and suffer lasting misery, because if we put our stock only in the things of this world,. they will, sooner or later, pass away.

Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us see our crosses not as burdens, but as opportunities to help construct a better world in his name. Through our crosses, in his service, we can achieve a better life for ourselves and for others. Let’s take up our cross and take up the cause of Christ.

Readings: Nahum 2:1, 3, 3:1–3, 6–7; Deuteronomy 32:35c–36b, 39a–d, 41; Matthew 16:24–28. See also Thursday after Ash Wednesday18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday and 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.