Take Up Your Cross

In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus tells his disciples that he will suffer and be rejected. That in itself would have been unhappy news to his friends.  But then he adds the kicker: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his live will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes these words talking about Jesus’ prediction of his own suffering and rejection:

Jesus Christ must suffer and be rejected. It is the “must” of God’s own promise, so that scripture might be fulfilled. Suffering and rejection are not the same thing. Jesus could, after all, yet be the celebrated Christ in suffering. The entire sympathy and admiration of the world could, after all, yet be directed toward that suffering. Suffering, as tragic suffering, could yet bear within itself its own value, its own honor, its own dignity. Jesus, however is the Christ who is rejected in suffering. Rejection robs suffering of any dignity or honor. It is to be a suffering devoid of honor. … Death on the cross means to suffer and to die as someone rejected and expelled.

Suffering and rejection. This is what Christ must experience – a suffering devoid of honor.  It is not surprising this is a difficult pill for the disciples to swallow.

Bonhoeffer also speaks of the final portion of the passage, reminding us that “[j]ust as Christ is Christ only in suffering and rejection, so also they are his disciples only in suffering and rejection, in being crucified along with Christ. Discipleship as commitment to the person of Jesus Christ places the disciple under the law of Christ, that is, under the cross.”

So we can enjoy being with Jesus at wedding feasts and dinners at the home of friends. We can share his joy in healing and in feeding those without food. We can wander merrily through grain fields, and take boat rides with Jesus. (And I have no doubt Jesus enjoyed time with his friends – and that they had times when they joked and laughed and maybe even had a little too much wine.) BUT if we would call ourselves disciples, we must also stay wedded to him in Jesus’ suffering and rejection, that is, be “disciples under the cross.”

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One thought on “Take Up Your Cross

  1. “Death on the cross means to suffer and to die as someone rejected and expelled.”

    Apologetics have been integrated with Christianity from the beginning – as ‘New’ and ‘Old’ Covenant collided. This morning’s Gospel reading (according to Matthew 4: 4, not Luke) “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’” (New American Bible) inspires hearts a many. . .

    During times of ‘suffering,’ times of trial and challenge it is professed the ‘Evil One’ takes further root within the darkness of personal anger, pity, bitterness, envy, wants, desires, lust . . . Imagine the personal suffering and rejection that often settles within the depths of being for those seeking the purity of truth, the purity of “every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” when myself, and others I am sure, proclaim a religious relativism often attempting to ground our observations (‘rejection’) in Scripture (His words) itself. . .

    If blessed to be in my design studio during mid-day, ‘The Journey Home’ is a favorite respite from the offerings of cable news political postulations. An often common thread encouraging many devout of other faiths to eventually embrace Roman Catholicism is the ‘purity of truth’ their new spiritual home professes.

    Few Christian faiths fully embrace and believe, with all their hearts, a community of solidarity that professes the Holy Spirit finds respite within the vessel of the body only after Christian Baptism; marriage is a lifelong covenant reserved only for one man and one woman; the evils of artificial contraception, selfish family planning and implications to conjugal love must require the ban of availability; protecting the sanctity of life (in all of its forms) need be the first priority of life’s relationships; the sanctity of the priesthood ordained to offer Sacramental Grace must remain male as Jesus first selected, continuing to encourage women to the sanctity of religious orders suitable to their calling; that the ‘New Evangelism requires a more fervent effort to profess the ‘One Truth’ that can only lead humanity to the one, true path of salvation through the One, Holy Mother Church as the Roman Catholic Church professes.

    Is there any ‘Safe Haven’ other than Roman Catholicism or Orthodox Christianity that can protect the remaining few ‘True Believers’ from the evil one, the proclivity of sin and an increasing secular, godless, worldly society?

    At Mass yesterday morning Father Anthony likened Lent and humankind to the concealed radiance of Cinderella before the encounter with her fairy godmother and to the chimney sweeps of Mary Poppins.

    Through Baptism, “. . . every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” and in Sacramental Grace, God through the Holy Spirit desires the potential ‘radiance’ of His love to fully blossom in each of His children similar to love’s blossomed promise between Cinderella and her (the) prince charming.

    The sign of the cross in ‘ash’ this past Wednesday is reminder of our bodily beginning and final destiny, applied upon the mark of Holy Chrism received at Baptism – a reminder of the ‘soot’ that encapsulates the entire vessel of our imperfect, broken, unworthy, and sinful body that only repentance, penance and rebirth in Christ Jesus can remove.

    “Where will you be finding your quiet time during Lent?” (Hermitage in February). Where will you (be finding) find your spiritual safe haven? A community of believers often offers ‘all’ to the one and all; assuring the viability and sustainability of ‘The’ faith community as necessary to ensure ‘The’ path of salvation be followed. Actions though visible, need be supported by ‘The Word,’ wedded to suffering and rejection often encountered when faith visible and works testified may expel one from the worldly community.

    “Jesus, however is the Christ who is rejected in suffering. Rejection robs suffering of any dignity or honor. It is to be a suffering devoid of honor. … Death on the cross means to suffer and to die as someone rejected and expelled.” Was Jesus’ message and ministry rejected, initially rejected, ultimately rejected?

    To a degree, was not Greek and Roman mythology and life in the ‘hereafter’ predicated upon worldly life’s prayerful pleadings, sacrificial offerings, actions deemed pious as well as individual transgressions of law?

    Were not the decedents of Abraham commissioned through faith (Mitzvah) to come together as one and live life refining the physical world and concerned less about how to get to Heaven? During Jesus’ day, in worlds, both spiritual and secular, where god and God, temple and Temple were elevated ‘above’ humanity was Jesus’ message of Love and “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28) rejected? Or was His Presence and message the incomprehensible fulfillment of ‘The Covenant’ – a message foretelling of the dawn of a New Covenant, the Messianic Coming incomprehensible within established Scriptural beliefs?

    The Torah says, “and the Almighty formed man of dust from the earth, and He blew into his nostrils the SOUL of life” (Genesis 2:7). Human beings are composed of two aspects: The physical body which is formed from the dust of the earth and the spiritual soul (our real essence) which is directly from God.
    The body does serve an important purpose. It enables us (our souls) to live a life in this physical world. This presents us with the unique opportunity to serve God by following His divine game plan as outlined in the Torah. Following God’s will by fulfilling His commandments in this physical world connects us to God spiritually (the root of the Hebrew word “mitzvah” is “tzavta” which literally means “to connect”), refines the physical world, and proclaims the glory of God — that He exists everywhere. This is our mission while on earth.

    At death the soul and body separate. King Solomon said, “The dust will return to the ground as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:17). This means the soul returns to heaven, back to God, where it is enveloped in the Oneness of the Divine.

    Although Judaism believes in heaven, the Torah speaks very little about it. The Torah focuses less on how we get to heaven and considerably more on how to live our lives. We perform the mitzvot because it is our privilege and our sacred obligation to do so. We perform them out of a sense of love and duty, not out of a desire to get something in return.

    There is a practical reason for this. If we lived a righteous life for the sake of a monetary or heavenly reward it would be serving God for an ulterior motive.
    A story is told of a Jew who gave away his portion in the World to Come in order to rescue a kidnapped family being held for ransom. When asked why he was not sad over losing his place in heaven, he responded, “I was always concerned that I was serving God for the wrong reasons. Now that I don’t have a portion in the World to Come I can serve Him reassured that I am doing it purely out of love and devotion.”

    This is true service of God.

    After we die we are judged by God, since He is the only true judge who knows our actions as well as our motives. Our place in heaven is determined by a merit system based on God’s accounting of all our actions and motives. God also knows if we have repented for transgressions committed during our lifetime and takes this into account.

    Repentance has always been God’s preferred and primary means for obtaining forgiveness. Even in the time of the Temple, sacrifices were only offered for certain “unintentional” sins (Leviticus 4:2). Obviously, if a sacrifice was presented without remorse and repentance the sin was not atoned for. The sacrifice served as a tool to motivate the sinner to repent. This was necessary because a person might rationalize that he didn’t need to repent because it was only an accident. Sins performed intentionally never require a sacrifice, only repentance
    .
    After the Temple was destroyed the repentance aspect of atonement remained intact and sacrifices were replaced by sincere prayer. This is clearly stated in the following two correctly translated passages:

    “Take with you words, and return unto the LORD; say unto Him: ‘Forgive all iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks (sacrifices) the offering of our lips.” (Hosea 14:3)

    “I will sacrifice to you with the voice of thanksgiving.” (Jonah 2:10)
    Sins that were not cleansed prior to death are removed by a process described as Sheol or Gehinom. Contrary to the Greek and Christian view of eternal damnation in Hades or Hell, the “punishment” of Sheol, as described in the Jewish Scriptures, is temporary. (–Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz, jewsforjudaism.org)

    Or was His presence and message experienced as an incomprehensible fulfillment of ‘The Covenant’ – a message foretelling of the dawn of a New Covenant, the Messianic Coming radically in contradiction to Sacred Scriptural beliefs?

    Does “Death on the cross mean(s) to suffer and to die as someone rejected and expelled.”?

    Each one of us, each one of God’s children, should seek safe haven, embrace doctrine and live an exemplary life within the ‘walls’ of their religious faith and beliefs willing suffering rejection and expulsion from an increasingly secular, godless world – done so willingly in the ‘light’ and with acceptance of His “merit system based on God’s accounting of all our actions and motives.”

    Is there penance sufficient to atone for my (considering my Catholic upbringing) behavior, transgressions (sins) and relativism? Imagine the lengthy proceedings to enumerate let alone prosecute all my “. . . actions and motives.”

    Arrogantly professing a faith begotten in St. Perpetua’s home church of Carthage before Nicaea, before Trent, before. . .

    Professing a belief that the Eucharist is much more than Body and Blood, much more than bread, wine and ‘one’ Cup – that the Eucharist is intended to be offered for all, to all, who believe in their heart of His ‘Ultimate Sacrifice’ . . .

    Professing love, love in its true and only form, enables two to become one; while also respecting the doctrine and belief of others forcing individuals to willingly endure rejection by some – though offered opportunity to embrace peace within the welcoming Spiritual Home of others. . .

    Passionately professing that under limited circumstances marriage and divorce in the Roman tradition be reconciled and the Sacraments offered through love and mercy, not the manipulation of Canon Law in the annulment process . . .

    Tirelessly advocating first for the ecumenical unification of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christian faiths enabling public pronouncements of unification to transform privately held objections to merciful conciliation that dismantles portions of Faith’s foundation and enables the resurrection of God’s Kingdom as continually proclaimed.

    “5. Notwithstanding this shared Tradition of the first ten centuries, for nearly one thousand years Catholics and Orthodox have been deprived of communion in the Eucharist. We have been divided by wounds caused by old and recent conflicts, by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are pained by the loss of unity, the outcome of human weakness and of sin, which has occurred despite the priestly prayer of Christ the Saviour: “So that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you … so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:21).” – Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia (02-13-16)

    Advocating for honest dialogue and unification of Protestant faithful, faithful who were abandoned by past pontiffs and ‘their’ shepherds that both helped birth the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, to end further separation of Christians – one from the other.

    Only Christ Himself knows the hearts of those partaking of the Eucharist, the Eucharist of consubstantiation, of transubstantiation, of ‘truthful’ apostolic succession and the Grace conferred during partaking of His Sacred Sacrifice, His Sacred Liturgy – no matter the faith or church where offered. . .

    Image the Blessings and challenges an open Eucharistic table would have especially in rural Christian churches if a Eucharist celebration was available locally during expanded hours (at different churches) and on Saturday evening – ‘Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath’ would more frequently enable family activities and sporting commitments be integrated with weekend schedules – challenging personal and family decisions our Good Lord would most surly embrace be discerned and acted upon . . .

    “. . . by differences inherited from our ancestors, in the understanding and expression of our faith in God, one in three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” (Joint Declaration) . . . In the understanding and expression. . .

    Who shall we fear “suffering and rejection” from, the secular world, our faith community, or God Himself?

    “if you want an example of what it looks to give such a complete “yes” to God that you can accept whatever consequences flow from it, read Maria Scaperlana’s book about this man, Fr. Stanley Rother, “the shepherd who did not run.” (My Life is for My People, 02-07-16)

    As best we can, are we not called to be His Presence in the world and to face rejection, even suffer; or to run. . .?

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