In today’s Gospel Peter balks at the thought that Christ must deny himself and take up his cross. Last week Our Lord was praising Peter’s faith; this week he is condemning his worldly outlook.
In today’s First Reading Jeremiah laments all the ridicule and suffering he endures for the Lord’s cause. Jeremiah was called to be the Lord’s prophet in a time when people preferred their own counsel and wished for an easy solution to their problems that didn’t involve faith or sacrifice. He is dejected because his mission is as hard as he imagined, but he let the Lord talk him into it anyway. When facing the hardship of decisions made, we often ask ourselves, “What was I thinking?” Jeremiah is having one of those moments. Despite difficulty and dejection he burns inside to carry on, because he knows he is heralding the truth, something no one can turn their back on. He knows his message will save his people.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that we are called to a spiritual worship that implies sacrifice, just as Christ sacrificed himself on the Cross as an act of perfect worship for our sins. The martyrs answered the call to sacrifice their very lives for the cause of Christ. The confessors suffered physically for the cause of his name. By shouldering our crosses we offer spiritual sacrifice to Our Lord and place our worship alongside Our Lord’s perfect sacramental worship each time we celebrate the Eucharist. We can never forget that now we offer in a non bloody manner at each Mass what he offered in a bloody manner on Calvary. The world tries to turn our minds away from the Cross, but the cross is the true path to life and fulfillment. When we accept and shoulder the crosses in our life it renews our attitude toward the fleeting things of this world and what is truly important.
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. He also encourages us to practice self-detachment and to remember that everything we have comes from God. No matter how often we try to accumulate things and 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. All things that God has created only serve us to the degree that they help us and others draw closer to God. Sometimes we lose sight of that: we want a life that does not involved self-denial and the Cross, a life where we own everything we could possibly want, not just everything we need. We seek financial security, comfort, and control, and we convince ourselves that we’ll be satisfied with having more money, more comfort, more control.
The things of this world are fleeting and we’ve all experienced that after one bill comes another, that we can’t always enjoy the health or comfort we crave, no matter how hard we try, and that there are many things that will always be beyond our control. When we get obsessed about achieving the impossible in this world–unlimited wealth (the latest and greatest and a big nest egg), complete comfort (no aches and pains, nothing unpleasant), and total control (everything arranged to our satisfaction)–those things that God created for our good become obstacles to drawing closer to him, and throw up obstacles for others as well.
Our Lord reminds us today that we can have the whole world, but 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. 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 a ravaged world: the more we seek fleeting things, the more we flee from our crosses, the more we’ll 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: Jeremiah 20:7–9; Psalm 63:2–6, 8–9; Romans 12:1–2; Matthew 16:21–27.