September 3, 2023: Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lost it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
In a world where we have access to constant distractions, we are great at avoiding our crosses. Our crosses are those areas in our lives where we experience pain and suffering. The way presented by Jesus in this Gospel is three-fold.
One, deny yourself. Jesus wants us to realize that we may not be who we think we are. We have created a false self to protect us from the pain we experienced growing up. This false self lives in fear and is reactive. This is the self that Jesus wants us to deny. How do we do that?
Two, take up your cross. We must face our pain and resistance, accept its presence, and learn from our difficult experiences. When we do this, the false self begins to let go of its attachments. We start to glimpse our true self – our soulful self – that is secure in a God that is Love. From here we realize that nothing can destroy our true essence. As we live more connected to our soul, we can relax our defensiveness and stop trying to fit into the harmful systems of this world.
Three, follow me. Jesus wants us to follow his example. He wants us to live as our true selves, grounded in love, compassion and forgiveness. Jesus admits that the way is not easy. It takes time, grace and courage. It requires the support of others. Ultimately, we must trust the paschal mystery and be willing to embrace the little deaths along the path, knowing that resurrection – new life – is right around the corner.
This week, give some gentle and loving attention to a difficulty in your life. Gather all your tools and supports to begin to face, accept and learn from this cross. Notice any glimpses of your true, loving self in the process?