Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Homily Skeleton

When I read the challenge from Jesus to carry our crosses in Scripture I seem to always pause on the verse and pray for insight and clarity. All of the big questions of suffering, hardships and setbacks enter my mind and sometimes I wonder if God, indeed, did create the best of all possible worlds. Why the necessity of these crosses?

Why does Jesus say: Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple?

Like you, sometimes I get a glimpse of insight. Sometimes not.

Nevertheless, we all have those moments when we make a discovery about something that puzzled us in our faith, or in Scripture and we have an Ah-Ha moment.

About six years ago I was in Cuernavaca Mexico for two months over a summer digging ditches to build footings for an addition onto a mission church. It was hard work, and between the sweat and drinking the water, I lost about 35 pounds. My friends tell me that I need to go back, but this time for four months. Some friends, huh?

I remember taking a tour in English (Thank you, God, for I was not doing so well with the Spanish Language) in the beautiful cathedral there. On a large door of the Cathedral are listed the beatitudes -- the first being -- Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For a very long time I never really quite got that one. What did that mean? What does poor in spirit mean and why are they blessed? I read it for years as -- lacking in spirit -- and I did not know what that meant or why they were blessed. And, on that tour I learned that it meant those who were humble, those who recognize the incompleteness or poverty of human resources and thus realizes their utter dependence on God. That was one of my Ah-Ha moments.

Well, if you are like me, this thing confuses you once in a while too (pointing at the large cross over the altar). There have been many times that I have looked for an Ah-Ha moment with this thing.

How does all this work? Why the cross? How does suffering lead to redemption? How could the Father allow his Son to be crucified? Why this way? How his all humanity redeemed through this action?

Ultimately it is a mystery. And we should not be afraid of mystery.

We can not think like God. And that is okay.

But what about this command to carry our cross and follow Jesus? How do we do that if we do not fully understand the mystery of the cross and how it all works?

What does this command really mean?

It means that sometimes doing the will of God is hard, and involves suffering. Being a helper in the building of the kingdom requires work.

It means that sometimes following the example and teaching of Jesus is a real challenge.

It means that doing the right thing and loving our neighbor can be downright dangerous.

It means that sometimes loving demands sacrifice.

And so many of us here are already carrying crosses. You do not have to go looking for them. They find us.

And I think if we could see each others crosses we would be humbled and in awe.

You have denied yourself a thousand times over and have done God the will of God by raising a family and all of the personal sacrifice that goes with that. You have gone without so that your kids could have advantages that you did not have. That is cross carrying.

You have endured the hardships of supporting that family member or friend in his or her struggle with an addiction. You have put up with the cycle of victory and defeats, ups and downs because of the command of Jesus to love. That is cross carrying.

Or your dealing with that addiction yourself and digging in and trying to walk the straight line. That is cross carrying.

You are a teenager and you are determined to live a life of virtue and chastity when it seems to you that no one else is. And you think you may pay a price for that. You will sacrifice popularity and hanging with the crowd that calls themselves cool. That is cross carrying.

You have devoted what seems to be your life to caring for that physically or mentally challenged child or infirm, elderly parent because it is simply the right thing to do and you do it out of love. That is cross carrying.

You have lost a child or your spouse and not a day goes by that you do not think of that person you have lost, but you find the strength to stand up and carry on and continue being a giving person when you feel that everything in life has been taken from you. That is cross carrying.

You have carried around a hurt so deep and so stinging for years and even decades and you have never spoken about it to another soul and there have been times that you have wanted to act out in anger and revenge and rage, but you have resisted and turned the other cheek and responded with love. That is cross carrying.

How will your stories end? Where will carrying your cross lead you?

Maybe through more suffering. Maybe to death. But I know how this story ends (pointing to the cross).

Suffering is conquered by joy.

Death is conquered by life.

Darkness is conquered by light.

Crucifixion is conquered by resurrection.

Our faith tells us that despite our suffering and sacrifices our stories will end the same way if we pick up our own crosses and follow Jesus.

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