Readings: Isaiah 50:4c-9a; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35
We have so often used today’s Gospel to support the particular role of the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church, that we might forget that it addresses every Christian and every Christian church, from the time of the Apostles to the end of time.
It could be plausible in the current crisis of Church leadership to consider whether the popes and bishops have been shouldering their cross. But I have no access to all the facts, and certainly, I have no window into their souls, to read the motivations of these men. I am not even familiar with them as individuals. It would be too easy for me to jump to conclusions and take the moral high ground in an area where I’ll never have any responsibility.
So at this hour, you and I will have to wait in prayer and receptivity, discerning God’s will for us and discerning our own responsibilities, especially in the areas of restitution and reconciliation, as due process now unfolds.
I direct our attention instead to Jesus’ words: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.
How often have we heard this verse misapplied? Were I to say that the arthritis in my right knew is the cross I have to bear, I’d be misapplying this verse.
Likewise, any mortification I concoct for myself is not my cross. That’s totally dictated by me, just another control game.
Jesus’ cross was a serious life and death issue and a vocation that he freely embraced. As the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us, for the sake of the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
The image evoked is from capital punishment: the convicted criminal carried the crossbeam of his cross, his conviction written on a tablet hung about his neck. At his crucifixion that tablet would be fastened above him to identify and shame him. That’s what was done to Jesus.
My cross, then, is given, not calculated by me, yet tailor-made to me, to my particular conflicts; but necessarily rooted in the mystery of Christ and embraced by me.
Engaging it could bring me to the throne of God; evading it would be walking out on God.