You Can’t Follow Jesus Without a Cross
User's Guide to Sunday, Aug. 31
Sunday, Aug. 31, is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27
In the Gospel, when Peter hears that Jesus will have to suffer the passion, he objects: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
Jesus answers harshly: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
It is understandable that Christ was angry with Peter; Peter didn’t yet understand the purpose of suffering.
Jesus makes the point that the only way to follow him is to follow him in his suffering.
We can’t relax and lead a comfortable life and stay close to Jesus. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me,” Jesus says.
St. Paul explains that it is only through suffering that we discover the will of God. “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” he says. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God.”
Only the person who studies will advance in learning; only the person who joins the game will advance in sport; and only the person who suffers alongside Christ will advance in knowing the will of God. As Jesus puts it in the Gospel, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
There is no other way to follow Christ: We have to carry our crosses.
We are free to take up our crosses, or not, but Jesus makes clear the consequences: If we refuse, we will find fleeting pleasure, followed by suffering worse than what we tried to avoid. At the end of time, “The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct,” Jesus says.
By taking up the yoke of the cross — by giving up what isn’t good for us and by doing the hard things required of us — we don’t find drudgery, but happiness: “For my burden is easy, and my yoke is light.”
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer
in residence at
- Aug. 24-Sept. 6, 2014