Deut 4 : 32 - 40, Matt 16 : 24 - 28 Taking up your cross to follow Christ often means much more than we can imagine. It is one of those metaphorical statements of Christ that beginners in faith are often tempted to take literally. A new convert who was a carpenter by profession, once read this passage and determined to demonstrate his new zeal for obedience of Christ's words, embarked on constructing for himself a sizeable cross which he carried round the town on Good Friday. A madman who knew his plans messed him up by using whips to play the role of the soldiers on him and he flew. I also know a Catholic priest who tried such a thing in the recent past.
There is no better way of carrying the cross of Christ than embracing the 3 evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Poverty means sacrifice of worldly possessions for the glory of God. St Clare, our Saint of today stands out as a perfect example here. Chastity means sacrifice of sexual pleasures for the glory of God. St Paul says : 'Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.. not even sexual hunger... ', Rom 8 : 35. Obedience means sacrifice of one's will. In the Church for example, one can take an oath of obedience to his Bishop or Superior. By that he sends you to wherever he wants and recalls you whenever he wishes. Some Catholic priests have resigned from the priesthood because they could no longer keep this vow. It is not easy. The call for poverty for instance is a clarion call for not only individual members of the Church but the Church as a collective entity. These days it is becoming more and more embarrassing when the Church is indicted for close associations with very rich men who have very questionable sources of wealth without any effort on the part of the Church to convert them.
We must take up our cross as a community of God's people and also we must each discover our individual crosses - meaning sufferings and sacrifices God wants us to accept for the love of him. The 1st reading gives us the motive for this sacrifice - remembering the love and mercies of God . Remembering is about the most essential element in religion. God insists on this fact that the Isrealites should remember always what he has done for them in the past and behave accordingly, Ex 12 : 42. This is because his covenant with them was a bilateral covenant so they must fulfill their own part of the agreement. The whole idea of the celebration of the Mass is in obedience to Christ's injunction : 'Do this in memory of me', Lk 20 : 22. Let us always, remembering the mercies of God, present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, Rom 12 : 1. It is the best way we can take up our cross and follow him. May God bless you today!