Jun 18, 2016

12th Sunday: The daily cross

". . . Take up his cross daily"

Zech 12: 10-11; 13d
Gal 3: 26-29
Lk 9: 18-24

I clearly remember the days of road navigation by the use of a map.  The Auto club even developed something tagged the “trip-tick” in which your large unfolded map in the car would be replaced by a more compact page by page kind of flip chart in which your route was clearly marked by highlighted magic markers. If you were driving alone it was near impossible to both read a map and find your route. The best you could do was stop, take a look at your route, and kind of memorize what you saw.

In place of that, driving with another person who could be designated the navigator was far more wise. Your “navigator” would read the map, look for the signs and call out the directions as you traveled along.  We have certainly come a very long way in a very short time with our present day sophisticated GPS maps and talking directional satellite systems. I wonder what all those space shuttle flights were delivering around the world?  Does anyone even need a map anymore? 

In our scriptures this Sunday, and throughout our now Ordinary season during the summer months and on into the fall, we hear a great deal about directions.  Our great navigator, the Lord Jesus, shows us the way to follow.  In our Gospel from Luke this Sunday, the road of discipleship is clearly marked but that route is not always direct or smooth.  Yet, in the end it does find glory.

As he comes out from prayer, Jesus asks a question of his disciples: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” We certainly hear the same event in Matthew in which Jesus established the Papacy through Peter.  Yet, today’s version in Luke is more concentrated. The answer of the disciples makes all the difference in their understanding of Jesus’ mission and person. Ultimately, who they perceive they are following. Who is giving them directions?

And so, they state what they have heard and maybe even what they themselves have wondered: “They said in reply, ‘John the Baptist . . . Elijah . . . one of the ancient prophets.” Then that same question becomes more personal:  “Who do you say that I am?” asks Jesus. Peter’s blunt response: “You are the Christ of God” rings a familiar tone but its implication makes all the difference in regards to the future mission of these disciples and our own as Christians. 

In other words, if Jesus was nothing more than a resuscitated John the Baptist, the honored prophet Elijah or one of the other prophets of old returned, then his impact would indeed be limited and their mission even more so.  But, “You are the Christ of God” holds a significant challenge for them and us. It lies in how Jesus then explains its meaning in the prediction of his passion and suffering with a hint of the resurrection. Jesus’ immediate “rebuke” to the disciples is an indication that though Peter’s response may have been theologically accurate, its’ meaning was not yet in their grasp.

In order to emphasize, he then states: “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily . . .” This direct connection with the mission of Jesus and our own Christian lifestyle is significant.  The answer of Peter and Jesus’ explanation is where the rubber
meets the Christian road as it were.  We can maybe further understand this with a line taken from our second reading from Paul to his Galatian church. There we hear: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Is this a reference to the white garment worn at a baptism by a child or adult? 

Instead, it seems Paul makes reference to conversion.  Because we have been baptized into Christ, we are changed, transformed, we become spiritually different in a way that implies a new relationship with Christ. We have put on his clothing as it were and now, through grace, can be conformed more to his likeness. 

What does that mean for us?  Faithful discipleship after the example of Jesus himself: “. . . he must deny himself and take up his cross daily.” How often have we heard these words about the connection between the cross of Jesus and our Christian lives? When we think of carrying our cross our minds may go immediately to some form of serious illness and the pain and inconvenience that result. Its implication, however, goes beyond physical suffering.  

While we can view such as a cross that can bring us the grace of patience and even inspiration to others the word “daily” that Jesus uses is important. Many of us may say, “I’m in very good health. My numbers are good, I have energy, and I’m not sick and can get around quite well.  So where’s the cross? It must indicate more since physical suffering generally comes and goes.

Jesus’ entire life was one of self-sacrifice.  He lived not for himself but for others; to carry out not his own will but that of his Father.  He preached and enfleshed  the truth, he invites us to follow his way that is not always welcome in this world. In other words, his “cross” was before THE cross in the daily living out of his mission.  That indicates to us a way of life that we too must put on – clothe ourselves with.

It is the daily living out of our Christian mission that is not always easy, popular, accepted or understood.  We endure misunderstanding and criticism, we may be different or labeled as na├»ve and foolish. In many parts of the world Christians are viewed as a threat rather than a benefit.

On this weekend as we honor our Fathers, we can see fidelity in marriage and the love and nurturing of children and one’s spouse as a cross lived out.  So much attacks marriage and family life these days, that those who stand up for marriage as God created it may find themselves immediately judged as narrow-minded or out of touch, or whatever form of a “cross” may be thrown at them.  The direct influence on the faith development of children in a family can be directly connected to the way in which the Father lives out his own personal faith – or lack thereof. 

To live out our discipleship with courage and personal conversion where necessary is a cross we must all carry if we are to be authentic disciples of the Lord. 

As we celebrate this Eucharist we are reminded of the price payed by our Lord which brought us salvation.  As he becomes our food along this Christian way we wear his clothing proudly.  

Rejoice, O Lord, the sacrifice of conciliation and praise
and grant that, cleansed by its action, 
we may make offering of a heart pleasing to you. 
Through Christ our Lord. 

(Roman Missal: Prayer over the offerings)