Then he said to all, “If any man wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it (Luke 9:23-24).”
The first reading is taken from the Book of Zechariah 12:10-11. Zechariah is one of the twelve minor prophets who lived and preached in Jerusalem to the returned exiles about 520 B.C.
The second reading is from Galatians 3:26-29 in which St. Paul says that all who accept Christ are the Chosen People, the real descendants of Abraham, no matter what their race or nationality.
The Gospel is from St. Luke 9:18-24. The lesson intended for us in this passage of Luke's gospel is most likely in the last few lines. A true follower of Christ if he values eternal life must be ready to carry his cross and, if necessary, must be ready to be nailed to it, as Christ was. We are Christians because we sincerely want to have the everlasting life he came on earth to give us. He went through the excruciating death by crucifixion, the most painful and the most humiliating form of execution then known. He did so in order to enable us to merit heaven. He was the Son of God. He had no sins or faults of any kind to atone for. His sufferings were all willingly undertaken for our sakes.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that we should be expected to imitate him for our own sakes and in so far as God will demand it of us, by carrying our daily crosses. Down through the nineteen and a half centuries of the Church's history, there have been heroic examples of men and women who have undergone torture and martyrdom rather than deny Christ or risk their eternal life. We respect them and we honor them. Most of us may feel we would be unable to face such a test of our faith. But God will see to that. When he sends a heavy cross, he strengthens the shoulder that has to bear it.
What the vast majority of us are called on and expected to do, is to bear our own relatively little daily crosses cheerfully and gladly—keeping God's commandments when temptations to break them are strong around us. Bearing patiently with one's state in life when others seem to have the best of everything, putting up with a nagging wife or husband, often is a slow and private martyrdom. Forgiving those who injure us and not seeking revenge is a heavy cross, too. Bearing ill-health patiently, instead of perpetually grumbling against God and against those around us, is another form of Christian martyrdom.
These are but a sample of the many crosses that all men have to bear. Those unfortunate ones who have never heard of God or of a future life, or who refuse to believe in anything beyond the grave, have the same crosses to bear as we have. We have the marvelous help of our faith. We know that there is an eternal life awaiting us, if we live our Christian life as Christ told us to live it. This surely lightens our crosses, whereas the atheist has nothing to lighten his load of sorrow, no future to look forward to, and the present life is a misery until the grave puts an end to it.
Thank you, God, for the gift of faith. Thank you, Christ, for having made eternal life available to me, and for showing me how to reach it. Please give me the grace and the strength to show myself worthy of my heaven!
Excepted from The Sunday Readings, Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
This is Brotherhood Sunday! Human experience confirms the need of this Divine teaching. Only when the Fatherhood of God is recognized, will the Brotherhood of Man be realized. Returning good for evil is possible only to those who love God (Epistle). Oh, how much our hate-torn world needs this prayer: "Pour into our hearts. . .an experience of They Love" (Prayer).
In the practice of the Golden Rule, we plead with the Divine"Helper" against worldly persecution (Introit) and diabolical "enemies" (Postcommunion).
How can one who harbors anger, envy, bitterness, indifference, aversion of any kind against his neighbor, have part in the Sacrifice of Him Who offers Himself for His enemies? The sacrifice of our selfish or even wounded feelings for Christ's sake, is a most acceptable "gift" to "leave. . .before the altar" (Gospel).
Excerpted from My Sunday Missal, Confraternity of the Precious Blood