Saturday, September 03, 2016

Carry Your Own Cross

By Rev. Paul Berghout

“If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. Wisdom 9:13-14

Clear and direct communication is the healthiest form of communication.  Jesus tells you up front that being a disciple will definitely take effort and commitment by having to choose him over all other people, including family, and even yourself, and to carry your cross.

Satan practices unhealthy communication; he shows you the glamor of evil and tempts you, and then switches things to bad if you fall for it. After all, John 8:44 calls him the father of lies.

Ron Swanson said, “There's only one thing I hate more than lying, Skim milk, which is water that's lying about being milk.”  Or Kimchi made with no gochujang (or kochukaru)!

Up front, Jesus says you have to be spiritually detached from family and blood relatives, and even all our possessions in order to be his disciple.

Self-discipline keeps us from clinging to things and to people. To become detached from one’s will is perhaps the greatest detachment of all because it's being detached from having our way.  Perhaps knowing what “attachments” are helped us to desire spiritual detachment.

In describing attachments, St. John of the Cross says that it makes little difference whether a bird is tied by a thin thread or by a cord. Even if it is tied by a thread, the bird will be held bound just as surely as if it were tied by a cord; that is, it will be impeded from flying as long as it does not break the thread.

In the Modern Catholic Dictionary, Father John A. Hardon, S.J. defines an attachment as follows: Emotional dependence either of one person on another or of a person on some real or illusory object. The first condition for progress in sanctity is some mastery over one’s attachments.
We fail to practice mastery over our attachments when we use them in excess of our needs; for purposes other than that for which they were intended; or as ends rather than as means to a legitimate end.

When we “let go,” with detachment, we let God direct us to our destiny. As we surrender control to God, we release anxiety and fear. Detachment even helps to resist temptation; it helps us avoid disordered inclinations and relationships with persons or things. Detachment can help us avoid negative memories and thoughts that keep us from God’s love.

“Detachment is not that you should own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”  A spiritual writer tells the story of a villager who runs to the outskirts of the village in search of a certain wise man. In his dream, the Lord told him that upon finding this wise and holy man, the man from the village would be given a precious stone and be rich forever.

He found the wise man, and the wise man rummaged through his bag and found the stone, which he gave gladly to the man. The man from the village gazed in wonder at perhaps the largest diamond in the world and left for home.

All through the night, he was unable to sleep. Before dawn, he ran back to find the wise man, saying, "Give me the wealth that makes it possible for you to give away this diamond so easily."  This is a lesson in letting go, of being disciples.

The second thing Jesus says up front is that you have to carry your cross. 

We have an example of an interior cross from the woman being canonized a saint today, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who said that on September 10, 1946, while on a train in India, she got the call from the Lord to serve him in the poorest of the poor. She had already been a nun for nearly 20 years before she starting working in the slums.  After a while, she wanted not just to help the forgotten sick and dying physically and materially, but she wanted to a better help their sense their isolation, loneliness, and forgotten-ness because she knew they were Christ and by helping them to feel loved, she would quench the thirst that Jesus felt on the Cross.  God allowed her to become spiritually poor and she then spent nearly the rest of her life feeling desolation. “I have come to love the darkness,” she wrote, “for I believe now that it is a very, very small part of Jesus’ darkness and pain on earth.”

Everyone has their cross to bear. Everyone has problems and issues that they must deal with. How do you react to the challenges of life? In the lives of each of us, there may be something painful, big or small, something that we wish to be different. The cross can be caused by somebody else, or we may bring a cross on ourselves due to our choices.

In his recent document on marriage, Pope Francis notes that each of spouses should have their alone time in prayer to God each day “since each has his or her secret crosses to bear.”

We should join our crosses to the Cross of Christ, and we will be unburdened instead of burdened. One ship drives east and another drives west on the self-same winds that blow. It is the set of the sails and not the gales that tell them the way they go.”

Hardship itself is not the cross, but if that person faces his burden with the right attitude, with humility and submission to Christ, it is then that the hardship becomes the cross and the denial of self that Jesus is talking about.

A clever comic strip is circulating through the Internet these days. It shows a group of Christians walking in the same direction along a barren plateau on their way to heaven. They all carry large wooden crosses, like the cross Jesus carried. They are all bowed down under the weight. It looks very uncomfortable. One of them stops, lays down his cross, and turns to God in prayer. "Lord," he says, "I want to follow you, but this cross is just too heavy. Can you please lighten it?"

Hearing no answer, he pulls out a saw and cuts down the long end of the cross by about a foot. He continues along carrying his self-customized cross, but it is still uncomfortable, so he stops once again to pray. "Lord, you know that I love you, but I am just not strong enough to carry this cross. It's too big for me!" Then he gets out his saw again and cuts off another two feet. Smiling, he continues his journey.

All of a sudden, he comes to a huge chasm. A deep abyss separates the plateau he is on from the one on the other side, where the road to heaven continues. He doesn't know how to cross the chasm, so he looks around to see what everyone else is doing. He sees that they are laying down their crosses to cover the abyss, like little bridges, and walking along them to the other side. So he lays down his cross to do the same thing. To his horror, he discovers that his cross doesn't reach; it's three feet too short.

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