August 31, 2014
ORDINARY 22 (A)
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. – Mt. 16: 24
The ultimate test of our Christian discipleship is neither what we think about Jesus nor what we say about Him, but what we do about Him. How does our relationship with Jesus affect our daily conduct? How does it affect our relationships with others? How do we demonstrate our love for Jesus in the specific, nitty-gritty, down-to-earth events of our lives?
If we ponder God’s promise of forgiveness & eternal life, his power of healing & spirit of compassion, & the immensity of His love, we might feel a certain degree of comfort & security. But inevitably there comes a moment of truth when we are challenged to be doers of the Word, to be healers & reconcilers, to be compassionate & forgiving, to be peace makers & a people of joy!
Strolling through a park, a priest struck up a conversation with a soap salesman & soon they began to talk about religion. The salesman said, “The Gospel you preach doesn’t seem to have done much good after 2,000 years. There is still a lot of evil & wickedness in the world.” Pointing to a little boy making mud pies, the priest replied, “I can see that soap hasn’t done much good either. It’s been around a long time but there are still a lot of dirty hands & faces.” “That’s true,” said the salesman, “but soap is effective only when it’s applied.” To which the priest replied, “So it is with the Gospel we proclaim.”
We are so precious to God that he provides us with the strength to make the Gospel effective in the world: through prayer, Scripture, the sacraments, & the example of others. It has been rightly said that Christianity is not believing the impossible, but doing the incredible. Each one of us has been blessed with the potential to do just that. The potential is ours; the power is God’s. The source of all beauty & harmony & peace is in our heart; but there is NO way to experience it or demonstrate it or share it except to establish a working, living, growing relationship with it.
One of the national parks in Arizona has a registration book for tourists to sign when they leave. At the close of each day, the custodian of the book checks the entries in order to compile statistics where the tourists come from. Often he finds interesting comments alongside the names. On one occasion he found these words inscribed in a very feminine handwriting: “It’s so beautiful because Arnold is with me.” The thing that makes worship so beautiful for us is not so much the vestments or the music or the sermon as the fact that God is with us. It is God who makes it possible for us to experience the beauty & harmony & blessed peace of the kingdom here & now.
There is nothing grim about the command to take up our cross. It is not intended to make us wince or clench our teeth. It is an invitation to experience the joy of demonstrating our love of God through our love for one another.
Jesus hanging on the cross is God’s way of saying, “NOW do you see how much I love you?” That is precisely what it means to accept our Lord’s invitation. As doers of the word, moment by moment & day by day we ask our children & spouses & our parents & our brothers & sisters everywhere: “NOW do you see how much I love you?” AMEN!