Christ Carrying The Cross by Titian
Last Sunday's Gospel reading and the theme of "take up your cross and follow me" has been on my mind all week. I think it amounts to going through a time where picking up my cross seems like a heavy load but also the fact that the taking up of the cross is much less of a daily choice but a daily must. Last week I faced a couple bad days, well, badly. I was short in the joyful cross taking department, and not a lot of grace seemed to be flowing my way. Thus last Sunday's Gospel hit me in a way that made me think about it again and again.
The great passage from St. Matthew's Gospel is first of all pretty serious when you think about it. Christ's intense words to his disciples are spoken complete with reference to Satan, and gaining the whole world, and angels coming to judge our actions, it already makes you take notice and hopefully gives you some serious pause. The kind of pause where you think, "Of course I've heard this before but each time I hear it doesn't make it any easier." Because this passage is HUGE. It stops you in your spiritual tracks because its about YOUR life, and more importantly, losing your life.
The priest's homily which followed was centred around the anecdote of a person who lost their life savings to Bernie Madoff, and how upon losing all their money suddenly woke up happy to have all the things they took for granted before. As anecdotes go this one wasn't horrible, but does it apply to that Gospel?
The homily left me disappointed because this Gospel is the crux of our Christian life. When I think about how seriously the saints have written about their struggles and trials, and their joys, in taking up Christ's cross I think of the passion and intensity they must have experienced. And I know from each serious Catholic in my life, that their crosses are tough and serious business. I don't think I've ever encountered someone going through serious difficulties accepting and dealing with their own crosses wake up and with the help of a simple platitude be able to set off on their jolly way.
But I do not want to dwell on the idea that everyones grumbling about either. A true mark of holiness is a person's ability to carry joy to the world while being under the intense pressure of a personal cross. I just believe that these facts of the spiritual life are too serious to dismiss as something that can simply be overcome with a slight attitude adjustment.
I find this Gospel in a way comforting. Christ is saying this to everyone. Not just me, even though sometimes when I'm feeling down and that its only I who could be going through something so awful (complete with violin in background). And Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about and still knows exactly what he's talking about. Which is something that gives comfort when we feel like we have no idea whats going on! I'm also encouraged by these words of Father Andre Louf: " When our hour has arrived, God's grace will also be there, and very small things may suffice to help in our simple acceptance of and co-operation with grace."