and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me. -Matthew 10:38
The Cross is a universal Christian symbol. When I was young, I saw crucifixes on the walls at home, in school, and at church. I was comforted to hear that the cross told us of God’s love for the world. Later I learned that the “crosses” in our lives meant the sufferings we endure, or those crosses we choose to carry with others.
It was quite different for the disciples when they heard about the Cross of Jesus, as recounted in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew. They were struck with fear and even terror when Jesus told them they had to “take up their cross.” For these disciples had witnessed many criminals and slaves take up their crosses, to which they would be tied, and then lifted up to die an agonizing and public death. It was the worst kind of physical and mental suffering. Jesus is telling the disciples that life with and in Him requires sacrifice and the willingness to endure the worst kind of suffering.
But that is not all there is….
In our second reading for today, St. Paul tells the Romans that life in Jesus is death AND resurrection to new life:
….just as Christ was raised from the dead
by the glory of the Father,
we too might live in newness of life. -Romans 6:4
The first disciples were the first of many saints who lived the mystery of the death and resurrection in and with Jesus. The founder of the Passionists, St. Paul of the Cross expresses it this way: “Our most adorable savior has told us in the Gospel that whoever does not deny himself and carry his cross cannot be his disciple. Saints are His disciples who have put this into practice.”
We Passionists put this into practice by “standing at the foot of the cross” with those who suffer. At the Holy Cross Provincial Chapter last month in Sierra Madre California, we studied, prayed, and organized, so that we could respond to the suffering in our times:
–Earth community: people, animals and plants burdened with air and water pollution;
–migrants who have left their homes because of droughts, floods, fires, or political instability;
–people who carry the psychological, spiritual, and economic burdens that come with discrimination based on their culture or race.
As we take up our crosses and stand with others at the foot of their crosses, “May the passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts.”
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.