The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
September 3, 2023 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:21-27
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
Everyone’s existence is rooted in a presence and power that lives outside us. We are not the cause of our own being. We are given living existence as humans. And we are also given the ability to freely choose a direction for our lives. Sometimes this is referred to as “God’s plan for us” or “God’s will.” To use language drawn from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, we are then challenged to “discern” the path we chose to walk.
The teachings of Jesus help guide our choices. Today’s gospel reminds us that the best way to live is to imitate the life of Jesus, which as he notes, involves carrying a cross. Not his, but ours. This may not be a direction that we would prefer, but there it is, in plain view in his recorded words. Take up your cross and follow me. These are not words that would get extra votes if one was running for political office.
The invitation to carry one’s cross should be placed right next to the words of Jesus, “love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus’ s death on his cross is his fullest expression and most telling act of love of us. His love for us was and is without limit. Also, his love was universal. He loved everyone he met, and to see the full picture, everyone who ever has lived or will live. We learn more about this from other words he said, like we should “Love your enemies and do good to those who harm you.”
It is extremely important to connect carrying our cross and loving one another. Christianity is not masochistic. It is not primarily about self-denial or self-abuse. We are to love ourselves as much as we love others. Christianity is not a religion of total self-denial, or certainly not self-abuse. It focusses on loving all.
So, carrying one’s cross basically means to help one another, care for those in need, be sensitive and responsive to those we meet each day, and be forgiving of others’ weaknesses and faults. In other words, love as God loves! Carrying our cross includes generously loving others.
Love like this can be difficult. Our neighbors, near or far, in agreement with us or not, like us or very different from us, can provide us with a need (and an opportunity) to be generous and forgiving. At times, setting aside our own need of the moment and being considerate, kind and helpful to others with greater needs. Like the Good Samaritan. Like Jesus. Like the One who brought us into existence to extend God’s love to all.