13th Sunday OT A June 26, 2005 “Whoever does not take up his cross. . .”

Preached June 26, 2005 at St. Joseph Church Woonsocket. On the passage “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”
Full Text :
Homily — 13th Sunday OT A June 26, 2005    

“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”

It must have been very shocking for the apostles to hear Christ say those words.

According to St. Matthew, Jesus spoke those words very early on in His public ministry — the same day that He chose the Twelve to be His Apostles, he told them they wouldn’t be worthy of Him if they did not take up their cross and follow after Him.

It was only much later — maybe as much as two years later — that Jesus began to tell them clearly that He was literally going to be Crucified and Buried and Rise on the Third Day.

But before that Revelation, those first disciples would have had a very different view of the Cross than we do.

Today, seeing a Crucifix invokes in us Christians feelings of how much God loves us. The crucifix is what we turn to in tough and tragic times of our life. We hold the crucifix that’s on our Rosary when we pray the Rosary and it is a comforting thing. We hang crucifixes prominently in our homes, we kiss the crucifix as a sign of devotion. And can anyone imagine what this Church would be like if we took out the life sized Crucifix hanging in back of the altar? After the Lord’s Presence in the Tabernacle, the Crucifix is the most comforting sign of God’s love in this building.

But for those twelve apostles listening to Jesus in today’s Gospel, seeing a Crucifix invoked none of these feelings whatsoever.

The Cross for them was a symbol of oppression and cruelty. The Romans had invaded Israel and taken it over against the will of the Israelites. Rome was cruel enough to her own citizens, but to conquered peoples like the Israelites she was ultra cruel. History tells us that when Jesus was a child, the Roman Army crucified 2000 Jewish men just a few miles away from his home of Nazareth because the Jews revolted against the Roman occupation of their land.

Mary and St. Peter and some of the older apostles probably remembered seeing those Crosses lining the main road through Galilee.

And so the Cross for the early disciples wouldn’t have invoked pleasant feelings, but feelings of fear, of anger, and of the hopelessness of ever being free.

And that is why Christ says to them Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

Whoever does not take up his fears, his anger, his hopelessness and follow after me is not worthy of me.

Jesus is telling us that there’s no thing in this world that should terrify us to the point of inaction; There’s no person or persons in this world that should anger us to the point of hatred; and finally there’s no situation we can be that’s so hopeless we should despair.

Rather if we face those fears and carry them to Jesus, and if we bring that anger in us and place it before the Lord, and if we trust in Jesus despite the terrible circumstances and overwhelming odds, Jesus will deliver us disciples of His.

While we thankfully don’t live today under a foreign government that publically executes people who disagree with them, we still have things in our lives that frighten, anger and discourage us.

We can find all three of these things in the family we are part of. We fear losing those family members that are most dear to us, we fear that something bad may happen to them.

Other family members anger us to the point that we can’t forgive them, and our anger is affecting our health and well being.

Still other family members are going through tough times, and we wish we could help them but there doesn’t seem like there’s anything we can do for them.

Jesus says to us “put Me before all your family members, love me before you love them, and everything will work out.” But “He who loves mother or father, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” — I can’t bring all the many graces I have for those family members you don’t place before me.

In this Year of the Eucharist, we are especially mindful of the teaching of Holy Mother Church that every Mass is a re-presentation of the One Sacrifice Jesus offered on the Cross on Good Friday.

And so as we gather here for Mass this weekend, all of us here present have at least been obedient to the first half of Jesus’ command in today’s Gospel. All of us have at least “followed after” Christ, have followed Him all the way to Calvary, here on this Altar.

Hopefully all of us have been and always will be obedient to the second half of Christ’s command. Hopefully we have all taken up our Crosses and carried them behind Jesus to this Altar of Sacrifice.

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