Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…
Have you ever had something happen to you that really took the wind out of your sails? Sometimes we find ourselves facing situations that are simply and completely devastating. When you experience the death of a loved one, a terminal health diagnosis, rejection by someone you love or some other life changing challenge, there is a temptation to let it take over your whole being. You go to bed thinking about it and it’s your first thought when you wake up. You either don’t eat or you overeat. When you see other people, you wonder if they know what a hard time you are having. If you find the will to pray, your prayer is "O God, why me?" I am sure God accepts this – after all, he knows and loves us just as we are. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to do something different with our problems. Jesus says to us, "Take up your cross and follow me." I think Jesus is saying, take up your pain, your problems, your suffering. Don’t stop and dwell on it, put your focus back where it belongs because if your focus is too much on your cross, it can’t be on Jesus.
Jesus wants us to follow him with ALL our problems and ALL our joys. He wants us to follow him with all the things that our lives encompass. We are human; we will be sad and overwhelmed by some of things that happen to us. But we need to accept the crosses that come to us in life. We also need to accept the joys. It’s important to remember that all of this is part of life-sickness and death, and births and new life, good times and bad, happiness and sadness – take these all up and follow Jesus. Think of Wedding vows; the couple promises to stay together in good times and bad, sickness and health – in other words, throughout life. This is what Jesus wants from us – promise him you will continue on the journey no matter what life holds – that your life will be the very journey of following Him.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.