The Cross and Joy

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June 19, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

June 19, 2016
Luke 9:18-24
Fr. George Smiga

Here we go again! “Take up your cross and follow me.” We know that this is a central command of Jesus. It occurs several times in the scriptures. But what a bitter and discouraging command it seems. Is following Jesus about suffering? Is the Christian life about carrying burdens? If this is the case, it is no wonder that some people see religious faith as negative and hurtful. If the gospel is good news, it must be about more than pain. Following the Christian life must flow from something that is positive. So if we are to carry our cross, how can we find joy?

There are two ways that joy is connected to the cross. There is a joy that comes after the cross, and there is a joy that comes while carrying it. The joy that comes after the cross is the one with which we are more familiar. That joy is a promise. If we faithfully carry the evils in our life that we cannot avoid, God will be faithful to us and in time bring us to life and joy. The model for this kind of joy is Jesus’ own life. First there was Good Friday and then Easter Sunday. First there was the Passion and then the Resurrection. This joy is important because there are times in our life where the evil we face is senseless and devastating. When we lose a son or daughter in a traffic accident, when we are diagnosed with a serious illness, when there is a rupture in our family that neither our patience nor our efforts can heal, we must take up the cross in darkness and carry it with hope. We hope that a time will come in this life or the next when God will bring us joy.

But there is another kind of joy that is connected to the cross. This is not a joy that comes after the cross, but one that happens as we carry it. This joy flows from the gifts we have received. All of us are gifted, blessed with certain talents and abilities. We are proud of our talents. They bring us joy. But at the same time they often bring us pain.

We might be a person of compassion. We feel with others. Our compassion is a real gift to others but it is also a cross to us. When others feel pain, we feel pain. When others suffer, our hearts are broken. There may even be times where we wish that we were less connected, more independent. But that is not who we are. We feel with others. It is a joy. It is also a cross. We might be good at our job. We can organize, communicate, and get things done. The work that we do is valuable and a blessing to others. But the work we do can, at the same time, give us less time for the people we love. The job that we achieve can limit the time that we have with our family and friends. We are proud of our work. It brings us joy. But it is also a cross.

There is then a cross that flows from our gifts, a cross that we must carry even as we receive joy from who we are and what we can accomplish. Jesus speaks of that cross in today’s gospel when he tells us to take up our cross daily and follow him. He asks us on a daily basis to carry the cross that comes with our gifts, even as they bring us joy.

There are then two kinds of crosses: The cross that we carry in the night, waiting for the joy that is to come, and the cross that we carry because every gift is both a joy and a burden. Jesus tells us today to take up our cross. We should follow him. But we should always see the joy that is part of the cross. It may be a joy that will someday come because of God’s love. It may be a joy we embrace from the gifts that we have received, even though at times we must carry them as a burden.

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