O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ
your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
We hear in this morning’s gospel lesson those familiar words of Jesus when he said, “if you want to be one of my followers, you must take up your cross and follow me.”
For generations, preachers have commented on the difficulty of preaching on these words of Jesus. What did he mean? What kind of cross are you and ai asked to carry? It would be easy to talk about the joys that comes from following Christ or the peace that Jesus can offer his followers, but what about carrying a cross.
The cross of the New Testament was a terrible instrument of death…possibly the most cruel form of death that we might imagine. It was the means by which the occupying Roman government controlled the people. Their constant fear of being hauled before the courts and sentenced to crucifixion of a cross was ever in the mind of the Jewish people.
Crucifixion was unheard of in Old Testament times. A person who might commit a crime worthy of death would normally be stoned to death; and then that person would have been hung in a tree for all to see. This act would serve as a deterrent for others, however God had instructed that the person not be hung there over night. If they were they would be cursed by God.
And yet think of the significance practice in New Testament times. Jesus was hung not from a tree but on a wooden cross. But he was taken down before the end of the day while the two others were left there to die.
So, what is this cross that Jesus describes? It’s reasonable to believe that none of us will ever be threatened by death for our belief in Christ, however death may come in a variety of ways. Following Jesus means to live by his example; to be willing to witness to our faith without hesitation; to seek opportunities to serve others for Christ’s sake.
Do your friends and neighbors know that you are a Christian? Jesus was forced to carry his cross through the streets of Jerusalem so that all the people could see. We are called to live out our faith so that others can see.
Bearing one’s cross is more that putting up with that cranky neighbor or family member. It’s not even dealing with some sickness or ailment. Cross bearing means to accept the world as it is and do all in your power to reflect God’s love and forgiveness into that world. We are living in troubling times. We are living in a society that pits one group against another and no one is doing anything to infuse God’s love into our relationships.
Unless you’re willing to give up some of those things you’re holding on to so tightly in order to seek God’s will for your life, you’ll never be free to take up the cross that Jesus is offering you.
And we’re given that opportunity …why? because God is good…all the time.
An Act of Spiritual Communion
“My Jesus, I believe that you are present in the holy sacrament of your body and blood. I love you above all things and I desire to receive you into my soul. Since I cannot at this time receive you sacramentally, I invite you to come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were here with me and I unite myself with you fully. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen
A Prayer for the Church and Benediction:
Almighty and everliving God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, hear our prayers this parish family. Strengthen the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent. Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be among you, and remain with you always. Amen.