Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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In the Gospel for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Jesus tells his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

THE CROSS IS AN INEVITABLE FACT OF HUMAN LIFE. We enter the world in the pain of another and we leave the world in our own. And between the entrance and the exit there is more of the same. It just happens that the cross is an essential part of the human condition.

WE ARE NOT GOD! We are not absolutely self-autonomous, self-sufficient. But we want to be. This is the first and constant temptation, “You will be like God.” We are not God but we were made for God. Nothing else will satisfy us. This “transcendental neediness” for God is the existential source of our loneliness.

From the moment they cut the umbilical cord we are a SEPARATE INDIVIDUAL. We are unique, there is no one like us. We are one person but we are not integrally one. We do not have integrity. Our higher faculties do not have complete control of our lower faculties. Each of our faculties goes out after its own proper object. With Paul we experience a law in our body warring against the law of our mind. We have this civil war going on within us. DISCIPLINE IS WHAT WE NEED MOST AND WANT LEAST. Our body is vulnerable to accidents, to germs, bacteria, disease, cancer and death. The intimations of mortality get more frequent and much more convincing as we get older.

WE HAVE A LUST FOR KNOWLEDGE AND CERTITUDE. We want to know and we want to be certain. And the one we want to know most about and be most certain about is God. But after all of our prayer and study, God remains the Incomprehensible Obvious, a mystery. Made in the image of God, I am also a mystery. I do not even understand myself. My life itself is a mystery, not to be understood but to be lived in faith, hope and love.

We are social beings. WE LIVE TOGETHER IN SOCIETY. When people live and work together, especially is a highly competitive society such as ours, there is friction, frustration, disappointment and suffering. Add to this that everyone has moral and professional standards that he never achieves which results in a tension between our ideals and our accomplishments. Then there is the negative influence of the counter-culture in which we live, the positive temptations of the devil, and the effects of our own personal sins.

THE LAWS OF NATURE ARE NOT ALWAYS BENIGN. There are hurricane, tornadoes, lightning floods, droughts and earthquakes. Then there are the man made laws such as Murphy’s Law, which can be very disconcerting.

WE DO NOT SEEK THE CROSS! We already have it. As Jesus said, “If anyone will come after me let him pick up his cross daily (he has it already) and then come follow me.” “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.” Jesus is our partner in the yoke and he helps us to carry it. We seek only to love. And it costs to be a lover. The language of love is sacrifice. In this life, “ecstasy without agony is baloney.”

THE CROSS CAN MAKE US OR BREAK US. The same heat that hardens bricks melts butter. “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.” The cross can make us or break us but no one can escape it. The cross is an inevitable fact of human life. Each one has to solve the problem of the cross for himself. And there are three possible solutions.

THE FIRST SOLUTION is to deny the inevitability of the cross. To think that we can go through life without having to carry it. So we set out in pursuit of all of the pleasure we can find and at the same time ward off all pain, sorrow and disappointment. But this is no solution at all. How can you avoid the inevitable? How can you avoid what no human being has ever been able to avoid?

THE SECOND POSSIBLE SOLUTION is to admit that the cross is inevitable and to make the best of a bad bargain, to grit our teeth and endure it. To endure what we cannot cure. This is a better solution than the first. But it commits us to a dull, dreary, monotonous, passive existence.

THE THIRD POSSIBLE SOLUTION is to accept the invitation of Jesus and to willingly and joyfully pick up our cross and follow him. Then we see in our cross a splinter of his cross and an opportunity to prove our love for him. Then our suffering is transformed into sacrifice. And no matter how dark the prospects become we never lose heart for the victory is certain.

For an podcast on this topic CLICK HERE and choose Journey of Faith - The Way of the Cross

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