All of us have danced this dance at some time; we are human and prone to sin and failure, greed, weakness and fear. So many times we are in positions when we could speak out, and do not speak up when we should—who wants to rock the boat, be branded a trouble-maker or big mouth, or go against the rest and stand out? It always feels like you have just painted a big red and white target circle on your back. “Please, Lord, just let me drag this heavy cross a little, okay?” Or “please, just let me have a seat on this soft cushion…”
It always seems to be more difficult to do the right thing—whether in small or large choices—like: choosing the non-fat, healthier foods over the “good” stuff; or taking a deep, calming breath in the midst of righteous anger; or being kind to that mean person; or taking time for someone when all you really want to do is your own thing. It is about realigning our priorities, being fair, giving the benefit of the doubt, forgiving seven times seventy and putting others before your own self. It is speaking out against war (of any kind), injustice of any kind, prejudice, and judgment (which is not our place). It is feeding anyone who is hungry—not just the “deserving poor.” It is picking up our crosses and choosing the hard work instead of the cushions.
St. Paul urges us today to offer ourselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” He reminds us to “not conform ourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” We all have those moments when it seems our better angels aren’t operating—when we would rather have our own way instead of giving up something (whatever it is) for the good of another. We may choose the cushion instead of the cross; but living selfishly is to conform ourselves to this age. Just listen to St. Paul’s warning for us today and Jesus’ admonition to Peter in the Gospel. Following St. Paul’s advice is to sacrifice ourselves for good, to sacrifice our cushions for a cross. This is certainly counter-cultural in our “I, instead of we” society, our independence versus community (to which we are called as Christians), but if you listen carefully the psalmist tells us: “As with riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied…”
You may find yourself helping to carry someone else’s burden, even when you have your own to lift. What you may notice, though, is that carrying the cross together actually may make for a lighter load—or at least—good company on the way. These moments of turning from the easy cushion could be looked at in another light, too. They can be moments of grace for us; opportunities to do the right thing, turning from the temptation of the comfortable and conformable. Discipleship does not mean to play it safe and that is why Jesus rebukes Peter today. He knows how hard it is going to get. I imagine Jesus must be tempted by the cushion too, and then Peter offers him a plan to put the cross down and run away! We can see that in the name of love Peter does this, but we know that he has missed the mark. The easy way is the slippery slope, and it is a downward slide. Jesus turns his face to Jerusalem for us, choosing the cross, praise be to God!
“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.” Hmmm. Thank God for His mercy and compassion, forgiveness and grace as we struggle with the choice between our cushions and our crosses. May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts, and may we know the hope that belongs to our call.
Keep Singing in your hearts!
Just a Note:
Take up Our Cross - YouTube