The Cross - Our Task And Glory
22nd Sunday in OT

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed! screamed Jeremiah at God (Jer. 20: 7). He did this because he believed that God had seduced him into becoming a prophet and burdening him with a mission he did not want - which became his heavy cross.

What was God's mission for him? To tell the people of Judah and Jerusalem that their sins had earned God's anger and therefore He would not help them against the invading Babylonian army. Rather, they would be defeated and sent into exile.

Such a message was treason. And for proclaiming it, Jeremiah was made a laughing stock and publicly mocked. More, he was attacked, imprisoned and tortured. When he could not take any more, he told God, "I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more." But he could not let go of his prophetic office because it had become "like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones."

Jeremiah was a man of suffering but was not a tragic figure. Though he cried out against God in his pain, he was given the grace to persevere and was amply rewarded in the end.

No different was Jesus' mission (Mt. 16:21-27). After Peter's profession of faith in Jesus - "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God," - Jesus revealed to His disciples what His Father wanted Him to do: He must go to Jerusalem, suffer greatly and be killed but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.

Hearing this, Peter remonstrated with Jesus, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." He could not believe that such an utterance could come from the mouth of the Messiah! Now that he had been made head and the rock-foundation of Jesus' church, Peter felt he had to "correct" Jesus.

But Jesus showed Peter who was in charge when He responded, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Being called "Satan" must have reminded Peter of how Satan tried to deflect Jesus at the beginning of His ministry from the way of the cross with the promise of easy glory.

But for Jesus, the road to His glorification was to do the Father's will. Though Jesus' passion and death were evil and therefore were not desired by the Father, He nevertheless wanted Jesus to accept His will even unto death. For certainly, He could let good come out of it, namely, Jesus' eventual resurrection and glorification, and our own redemption. Thus in loving obedience to His Father's will, He "set His face to Jerusalem" and go through what awaited Him there.

Having put Peter in his place, Jesus now turned to his disciples saying, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Thus for us to be called Jesus' disciples, we also have to embrace our own cross so as to attain our eternal glory. From the start and unlike in Jeremiah's case, Jesus told His disciples what future awaited them.

We live in the age of consumerism - the age of instant gratification and of pleasure now. Our whole society is conditioned by mass media--television, radio, the newspapers, the internet. Their constant message is for us to enjoy all the pleasures life offers and NOW. For example, how often have we said, "I need to have that product" after watching a TV ad. Our wants have become our needs.

If we take our Christian life seriously as we ought to, we must not, in the words of St. Paul, use "the behavior of the world around us" as our model (Rom. 12:2). Those who embrace and live the philosophy of consumerism cannot be Christ's disciples. Rather, as followers of Jesus we are to take up our cross daily as He did. Our daily cross consists in the constant courage required to face all the demands of our Christian faith and its principles, even if we have to suffer pain and privations in the process. It also includes reaching out to others in need. In living up to this, Jesus offers us the opportunity to "lose" our lives in the sure hope of gaining eternal life.

In our effort to live according to the teachings of Jesus, we may be misunderstood, laughed at and mocked. In the face of this, we may be tempted to say with Jeremiah, "I will speak in his name no more." But if our faith has brought us to the living God, if it has brought us to the person of Jesus, if it has made us see Jesus in our neighbor, if it has brought light to our personal life, then it is madness to give up what is demanded by our faith. Rather, it urges us to keep on taking up our cross daily to the end, as Jeremiah did.

As followers of Jesus, this is our painful task. But it is also our sure road to glory.