Sunday, August 28, 2011
How to Take Up the Cross: Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time A
When it comes to picking up our cross there are two general attitudes. One says suffering and pain are to be avoided at all costs. Another says we must take up our cross and then God will bless us. Which of these two attitudes, dear brothers and sisters, is the Christian attitude? ... The answer, surprisingly, is neither. In the gospel Christ teaches us not to shun the cross, but he does not say that we are to bear it own our own strength like John Wayne. Rather our giving of ourselves, our self-sacrificing is to be done by God's strength, by the mercies of God, as Paul tells us in the second reading. We know St. Paul as the kind of guy who tried so hard to be perfect. And when he wanted to overcome a certain weakness he prayed and heard Christ say that his grace was enough, that his power is made perfect in weakness. This is why Paul would often say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It was not Paul's ability to face the cross, but Christ's strength enabling Paul to go through being jailed, whipped, lost at sea in a storm and shipwrecked all in his life as a witness to the gospel. Paul was no John Wayne. It was Christ that strengthened him in his prayer and through the sacraments.
We too dear brothers and sisters are called to face trying times. More immediately we have Hurricane Irene bearing down on us. After it has passed, we will be called upon to work for the good of our neighbors, feeding those who are without food, clothing those without clothes, giving shelter to those who have lost their homes, burying the dead, and consoling those who are grieving loss of loved ones or belongings. Where then are we to get this strength? My dear brothers and sisters, it is precisely in our Eucharistic celebration, it is in our prayer that God gives us the strength to face the coming storm and to face the cross of the aftermath. Here we offer to God ourselves, our hands, our feet, our willingness to serve others, and God renews in us the grace of His Holy Spirit, giving us a wellspring from which to draw strength when our hearts our thirsty and tired of giving. It is precisely here that we are called to standout and make a difference. It was by His becoming a human being, by His incarnation that Christ revealed to us the love of God. We too can reveal to others the love that God has given us, the love that God renews in us at this mass, through our works of mercy. It can be something as simple as helping a neighbor repair his fence or helping the elderly woman down the street to clear debris out of her yard. Whatever we chose to do we will be laying down our lives as Christ has asked of us, taking up the cross, with the strength that Christ himself gives us in the Eucharist. May the Lord give you His peace.