The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C - 23rd June, 2013

They say that there are so many relics of the true cross in so many places around the world that it would be possible to recreate the Black Forest by putting them all together.  This cynical phrase betrays a truth. The cross features large in our Christian consciousness.  
This is hardly surprising since the crucifixion represents one of the most dramatic episodes in the life of Jesus.  
However, Christianity does not primarily identify itself with the cross. Christianity finds its raison d’etre in the resurrection. To be a Christian is to try to journey through life in the light of the resurrection and to share that faith and hope with those we meet as we travel.
Nonetheless, Christians everywhere, probably because of our own experience of suffering and pain, often identify with the experience of the suffering Jesus.
In today’s gospel we find the familiar phrase about taking up your cross and following the Lord.  This is often taken to be an instruction to accept your suffering in stoic silence and “get on with” being a disciple.  Acceptance can certainly mark a significant step in the coming to terms with living with suffering.  Only when the person suffering begins to accept the way things are can they begin to find peace.
However, the context of this gospel passage is important.  I am of the opinion that this passage is about discipleship.  No great insight there! However, I think that the instruction to take up your cross is simply a description of that discipleship.  It is not a reference to particular or unusual suffering. The cross that is referred to, in other words, is nothing, necessarily, to do with sickness or pain or tragedy.
I think the clue to this is to be found in the letter to the Galatians (chapter 6, later than the passage which we read today) where we are exhorted to “bear with one another’s burdens” which is sometimes translated as “bear with the burdens of one another”.  This phrase can mean two things. It can mean to bear the burdens of others; and it can mean to bear the burdens that others are for us.
To take up your cross and follow the Lord is about you!  You are the cross. You and the other people you come across in your life; and especially the relationships you have with these people.  To take up your cross means to accept yourself as you are. It means also to accept others as they are.
To take up your cross and follow the Lord is an admonition to follow the Lord as you are. Don’t wait until your are ready or reconciled, or prepared, or, God forbid, perfect.  God calls you as you are, not as you would rather be.  When God calls you bring back to God what God has given to you.
Discipleship and all the loving, understanding, forgiving etc that goes with it is difficult.  The people that surround us are the principal challenge to our being able to do these things consistently. Take up your cross and follow me – follow me as you do your best to deal with this challenge.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you would be a great Christian if only it weren’t for so and so; that you would be a model disciple if people would only leave you alone.
The way of the cross is not a path that you ever walk alone.  The way of the cross is a busy street on which many people will make demands of us.  Being a faithful disciple is about negotiating that street while keeping our focus on the Lord.  It is often a steep hill that we have to climb and, very often, conditions are far from ideal but, and we need to remember this, we do not walk alone.  With us walk many others who are trying to carry the cross that we are for them.  And, with all of us, walks Jesus.

Article posted on 19th of June 2013

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