A dying father called his three sons in order to give each one of them their inheritance. To the elder son he said: “My son, I will give you our house as your inheritance.” So the elder son wasso happy because he will inherit from his father the beautiful and palatial house.
The father said to the second son: “My son, I will give you our land as your inheritance from me.” So the second son was so happy because he will inherit the vast tract of land that they have. The father said to the youngest son: “My son, because I love you so much and you are my favorite. I find pleasure in you and so I will give you my cross as your inheritance.” The youngest son was so sad because he neither received nor inherited the house and the land but only an ordinary cross. He was angry with his father. In the evening, he threw the cross and it hit the wall of their house and so the cross was broken. To his surprise, inside the cross were diamonds, gold and other precious stones in the world. He said to himself: “My father is right, he really loves me.”
In our relation with the Father as His children, He loves us so much that He gives us crosses not because He wants us to suffer but because He wants us to have better lives. St. Teresa of Avila complained to the Lord why she always had the cross, trials and difficulties in her lives. Jesus answered her: “That is the way in which I treat my friends.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Again Jesus confronted His disciples with the challenge of Christian life. Three things we must be prepared to do in order to live the Christian life:
First, we must deny ourselves. Jesus Christdemands self-denial, a necessary condition of discipleship. Self-denial means self-emptying. Sometimes, wetreat ourselves as if we were the most important persons. It should be the other way around: We should forget about ourselves and acknowledge the Lord in all our acts even if this means persecution and death. Self-denial means giving up something likegiving up our vices, such as excessive drinking, smoking, gambling and others. We have to set aside our own self and put God at the center of our lives.
We see a billboard that says: “No to Drugs, Yes to God.” This is an example of a self-denial by which a drug addict has to stop his addiction and focus himself on the things of God. This means that in every moment of our lives we have to say no to ourselves and yes to God or to dethrone ourselves and to enthrone God.
Second, we must carry our cross. There was a story of a little girl in school when she was taught and initiated into the wonders of arithmetic. Minus sign, plus sign, multiplicationand division sign had made a deep impression on her. One day when they attended a Mass in the Church she looked intently at the cross on the altar. She whispered to her father: “What is the plus sign doing on the altar?”
In one way or another, she had her sign confused. But in a far deeper sense she was absolutely right. The cross is a plus sign. Indeed, the cross is a positive sign in our lives. The redemption pictured by the cross has put a big plus sign in our lives. Itmeans merit in the Kingdom of God. We, priests, when we give a blessing or when we bless things for spiritual use, we make the sign of the cross so that it may inspire us to do good things and may lead and strengthen us to persevereevenin times of trials and difficulties.
We carry our cross if everyday we are faithful to Him. Are we faithful with our prayer orattending Masses? Are we faithful in reading the Bible?
Third, we must follow Jesus Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “Only those who obey can believe and only those who believe can obey.” That is to say, we must render to Jesus Christ a perfect obedience. In life, we are followers. Like for example, little kids imitate their mothers or what their fathers does. It is a law of life that 85% of what we learn, we learn from sight. We do not
acquire skills from words but from the deeds we see and observe. We are born imitators, but unfortunately, even evil one.
That is why it is important that we, religious leaders, parents, managers, old people, leaders and those who have positions in society to set examples for people around us. We are their heroes; we are special in the eyes of many of them. They look up to us; they watch us and imitate us all the time.
Today’s gospel challenges us to say no to the very attractive but one-sided worldly gospel of instant glory. We heard the words: “Only believe and everything will go well with you.” But it did not all go well with Jesus; he still had to endure the cross. It did not all go well with Mary; a sword of sorrow still pierced her soul. It did not all go well with the countless men and women saints who have gone before us. Why then should it all go well with you and me? Because in the face of disappointment, loneliness, sickness, frustrations and failure, our faith response should be to recognize that these crosses and trials are the necessary condition for our future glory. The world is the place for the cross. The place for the crown is heaven.
— Father Bernie