22nd Sunday (A) September 3, 2017
I know I hate it and you do, too, when we learn that the Gospel writers and ancient Eastern writers often took liberties with their work. One of them is in the Gospel today.
Jesus says, ‘If you want to be my follower, you must take up your cross and follow me.’
The CROSS is a post-resurrection symbol. It wouldn’t have any meaning at the time of this story. So the assumption is that the author, Matthew, used the powerful symbol of the resurrection cross and placed it in this story, because the people he was trying to reach would understand the meaning of the cross.
So what is this CROSS? Minimally, it is the instrument of Jesus’ death.
But its true meaning is not the event, but the path of life that leads to it.
For example, you might say to someone:
“You’re carrying a heavy cross.”
“God will not give you a heavier cross than what you are able to bear.”
Because of the horrific crucifixion, the cross has been translated as some suffering you must bear.
But for Jesus, the cross is not the event—it is the path, the journey, it is your life.
So when Jesus says, ‘You must take up your cross’, you can insert: ‘take up your life’.
Your cross is what you must do to put your life on track,
to help your life make sense,
the choices you must make to turn your life around.
It is as much challenge, as suffering.
It is as much bravery, as pain.
It is giving your life meaning by the direction you take.
That direction can include sacrifice, even suffering.
From last week’s Gospel: “Simon, you are Peter, and upon this ROCK”…
Simon was his birth name. Peter was not a name; it was a thing—ROCK
(Better translated, STONE)
Peter is called to be the ROCK foundation of the new community,
but usually he becomes a STONE, a heavy weight that is an obstacle to Jesus.
Jesus shows his plan: take my ministry to the heart (Jerusalem); it is dangerous; I may have to suffer, but I am called, chosen, driven—it is my destiny.
Peter the STONE says: “God forbid you should do such a thing. That isn’t in our plans, is it?”
- I thought it was going to be easy
- It would be fun
- We would get something out of this
- We would be famous
- We would be powerful
- What is this ‘having to suffer’ thing?
We aren’t any different!! Sacrifice, courage, surrender of our lives—are not on our lists of great spiritual activities.
We want our faith to have security, meaning, strength, peacefulness.
Jesus wanted that, too—he wasn’t looking for trouble!!!!!
Jesus knew he had a mission, but he also had a choice; people didn’t want him to accomplish this mission.
He said ‘I must take the consequences of my actions.’
I MUST TAKE UP MY CROSS
We, too, take up our cross; we walk in his footsteps
We don’t take up his cross—we take up our
We must make the choices that have the consequences
If we want to be a follower—we must take up the cross
There are two kinds of crosses: one that just happens and we experience faithfully (illness, job loss, death) and one that happens when we make a decision; when we stand up for values and beliefs .
He has shown us the way. We follow his footsteps—but in our life.
Our faith, spirituality, empower us to walk the path.
The cross is not the power of success—it is the power of commitment.
This teaches us that when we are faithful to our life—forming a clearer and clearer focus of our mission—and carry it out….
…but there is a price to pay; it does not always come easy; the sacrifice may be difficult.
Whatever it is for you—you have to take it up.
You must take up your cross; you must take up your life.
From it comes the promise that new life appears—meaning and happiness will show itself to you. It is guaranteed!
I’ve been describing your personal mission.
But just as importantly it is our parish mission. Together we support each other in living out that common mission. How do we describe that common mission?
We support each other in experiencing a transforming encounter with Jesus Christ,
who empowers us to be his presence in the world.
How are you part of this mission that has a transforming encounter with Christ?
- We have 150 people who want to be engaged in reaching out to the homeless
- Hundreds of you support our ministry to our mission in El Salvador
- Dozens are working with Dorothy’s House who reaches out to young women who are victims of human trafficking
- 125 catechists who each week will be helping our kids grow in that same encounter
- Casseroles for the homeless, school supplies to needy kids, Angel Tree gifts to kids and families who won’t be able to afford food or gifts at Christmas…
- …and on and on and on!
These are all sponsored by our parish so that we can have that transforming encounter with Christ and through these ministries we become his presence in the world.
There is a parish staff who help organize these ministries.
But the staff does much more than that.
But your staff, including myself, are not employees of an institution.
We don’t represent ourselves.
Rather we represent you in times and places where you want to help,
but cannot be present yourselves.
- Your staff visits hospitals, nursing facilities, those confined to their homes, bringing communion and a listening ear
- We work with dozens of our own families who have lost a loved one, are going through a divorce, or counseling through a crisis, helping people get back on their feet
- We have been training over 125 catechists who will teach our kids, support groups of adults who want to grow in their faith
- We will meet 25 times this year in helping those who wish to join our faith
- We are preparing 20 couples, all at the same time, who are getting married here; through sponsor couples, ceremony planning and the wedding itself.
But we are not employees; rather we represent you in times and places that I know you want to help but cannot personally be present.
I had the honor of being present in the few moments after the death of parishioner John Nicholson who died Thursday. I didn’t represent myself; rather, I represented you who would want to be present, but couldn’t personally be there.
I didn’t say, “I will help you through this.”
I said “St. Boniface (we) will help you through this.”
This is just the tip of what happens at St. Boniface so that we can help each other in experiencing a transforming encounter with Jesus Christ who empowers us to become his presence in the world!
I know we and all parishioners want this to happen for ourselves and for each other.
But the parish needs the financial resources to accomplish this mission that I know you personally support.
I received a call ‘out of the blue’ from a young man who does not live in our parish who is dealing with addiction to heroin.
It is a debilitating addiction. I said, “How can we help you?”
He was out on the street, with no home to go to; he hadn’t eaten and had no gas for his car (that he was living in).
I traveled across town to meet with him and listened for hours to his tragic story.
He’s been clean for a few days, and is on a waiting list for treatment beginning next Friday in Fort Dodge.
His obvious fear is how he can stay clean for the days until that opening in Fort Dodge comes.
I shouldn’t give him money, so I took him for food and filled the car with gas. And gave him my card and told him: “If you need help or someone to talk to, text me; or is it OK if I keep in touch with you?”
He said, “Thank you, but why are you helping me?” I said: “Because you called us!”
(To myself I said, “ We will help you take up your cross—because it is our mission.”)
I did not represent myself; I represented you. I took your place because I knew you would want to be there since you are empowered to become Christ’s presence in the world.
We are +One Christ +One Parish +One Mission
We will do what we can and pull for him—and pray for him!
Will he make it until Friday? I don’t know.