Carrying the Cross for Whom?

Posted in: Homilies

September 16, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

September 16, 2018
Mark 8:27 – 35
Fr. George Smiga

Today’s gospel contains one of the most famous sayings of Jesus, “Whoever wishes to come after me must take up their cross and follow me.” Now, we know what the cross means. It stands for suffering in our lives. Many of us know what our cross is. It might be a crisis in our family, a betrayal by a friend, or a serious sickness that is crippling us. Jesus says that the way we face our suffering will define us as his disciples. So, since the cross is so central to our relationship with Christ, it is important to understand it correctly. If you will, I would like to offer two truths about the cross that we must never forget.

The first is this: Jesus does not want us to suffer. God does not send suffering into our lives. Suffering is the result of our own imperfections and the imperfections of the world. Therefore, we as followers of Christ are not called to accept suffering, but to avoid it. If there is abuse in our home, it is not a virtue to embrace that abuse. We should escape it. If we are beset by depression, God is not calling us to accept depression, but rather work with counselors and other professionals to resolve it. Disciples of Jesus are called to avoid whatever suffering they can.

But there is some suffering we cannot avoid, some pain we cannot escape. Here is where the second truth about the cross is important. The cross allows us to give our suffering a purpose. The most important question to ask about the cross is not, “What is my cross?” or “How heavy does my cross feel?” The most important question is, “For whom do I carry my cross?” You see, you and I have the freedom to offer the suffering we cannot avoid for the sake of someone else. We can offer the pain of dealing with cancer for the sake of our family or for a grandchild who has lost his way. We can offer the pain of divorce for married couples experiencing difficulties, asking that their difficulties might be resolved.

When we offer our suffering for the sake of someone else, it gives suffering a purpose and makes suffering redemptive. This is why Jesus talks about “taking up the cross.” Taking up means we are in charge. We have the freedom to tell God, “Use my pain for this purpose or for this person.” We can say, “I take up my cross today for the benefit of my cousin Tony, for the victims of Hurricane Florence, or for world peace. When we take up our cross with a purpose, we are following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Jesus took up his cross for us. For whom do we carry our cross? Suffering that has a purpose will not destroy us. It can change pain into an offering for others and make an instrument of death an opportunity for life.

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