This Sunday: No One Follows Jesus Without a Cross

In his Sunday’s Gospel (22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A), 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 got angry with Peter.  If my wife announced she was going to have to spend the day going through a painful procedure at the hospital to save our children’s lives, she would expect to hear me say, “I will help you.”

If instead, I said, “No! Don’t do that. Relax and spend the day with me,” I shouldn’t be surprised at her sharp response.

When Jesus says he is going to have to suffer greatly, we should say, “If you must suffer, then you will find us by your side.”

In fact, Jesus makes the point that the only way to meet him now is to meet him in his suffering. It is not possible to relax and lead a comfortable life while staying close to Jesus. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” he says.

We should be used to having to suffer for what we love.

Think of what we suffer for in life. We suffer for another person: Maybe we worked hard to woo someone, spending time on the phone, time together, time earning money to pay for dates and gifts. We might even have changed our lives even more significantly for another human being, living in a new place or following a new career path.

We also suffer for our careers. To do a particular kind of work, we may have studied what we didn’t like, going into debt in the process. Then we went way outside our comfort zone to secure the job, then bought all new clothes or bought a new house in a new place, all for the job.

A good question to ask ourselves is: Have we ever suffered this way for God?

He should be the thing we value most in life. He should be the great love of our life. He should be the one we change most for.

If he is not, we need to get on a path to fix that. Read more spiritual authors, especially St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Teresa of Calucutta, C.S. Lewis and Fulton Sheen. Another way to ignite love for God is to serve others for him. Above all, pray more – and pray for the grace of love.

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 puts aside his thoughts to study another’s will advance in learning, only the person who gets out of his chair and joins the game will advance in a sport, and, 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; you have to carry a cross.

If we refuse the, we will find only find fleeting pleasure, followed by suffering worse than what we tried to avoid. At the end of the 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,” he says.

We may “gain the whole world” in this life, but to do so we will have to “forfeit our life.”

Ironically, 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.”

Image: Titian, Christ Carrying the Cross. Oil on canvas, 67 x 77 cm, c. 1565. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.