Take up your cross

09-03-2017Pastoral ReflectionsFather Brian Manning

We learn in our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah that he was more than a little annoyed and aggravated with God. Jeremiah absolutely did not want to be, and despised being, the messenger of God. He was persecuted and tortured by others because of this holy role and task. Jeremiah, however, preferred torture to disobeying God. You will notice in the reading from Saint Paul that he also continued the same plea of Jeremiah in his letter to the Romans. The Romans, too, also had values of a worldly and temporal nature. They were "this world" driven as were the people in the time of Jeremiah. Paul desperately encouraged the Romans to change their values - to make them more congruent with the directions of God. Our letter writer asked the people to live in a way contrary to what the world and society dictated - to be hospitable to strangers, to associate with the lowly, to feed their hungry enemies. Quite different from what was then the social values and customs.

Our Gospel writer Matthew wrote to the Jewish community of his era plainly telling them to take up the cross and follow Jesus. He wanted them to let go of the ways and values of the world they lived in. He is telling them that in order to follow Jesus, people must give up their life for Jesus. We will gain the whole world, a world we cannot fully comprehend in so many ways, if we give up our lives for Jesus.

Have you ever considered about how difficult it would be to be a prophet in our world today? If you saw George Burns as God in the movie Oh, God! way back when, or on the old movie channels, then you know the world is a tough audience! Notice how the role played by John Denver and also way back in time, Jeremiah, were both laughing stocks. The message to the world that just because "everyone was doing 'it,'" didn't make "it" right was behind their characters and their roles as prophets.

It is true that each of us at some point in our lives has taken a stand that goes against popular opinion. We believed that the cause was something worth risking peer disapproval. Some parents may hold firm to setting parameters around the internet and social media their children may use or see. We may attend a pro-life event even though some people will shout and gesture their criticism. Our media promotes commercials which tell us and everyone else that we deserve to pamper ourselves and lavish ourselves with luxury. It takes unselfishness to resist those lures and care for someone else before we take care of ourselves.

To carry a cross and deny ourselves the pleasures the world has to offer, often brings about confusion and a sense of loss because of how we view it. Perhaps the challenge of "carrying our cross" is more in how we view the obligation rather than the task itself.