This Gospel reading captures an important moment in Jesus’ life. It still is a challenging moment for you and me today. In St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus begins his work in Galilee in the north and then starts a long journey southward to Jerusalem. This journey lasts for ten chapters in Luke’s Gospel. It is there on that journey, that we have the great parables about what it means to be a disciple, what it means to follow Christ. And people follow him in droves! Big crowds. Huge crowds.
When Jesus spoke about the self-centred rich people who refused to follow him, the crowds cheered him on. When Jesus criticised the Pharisees and called them painted tombs that looked great on the outside but were rotten inside, the people loved it. When Jesus spoke out against the legalists, nit-picking scribes, they thought he was great. When Jesus pointed his finger at evil out there, they said ‘right on’.
But now, Jesus stops. He turns around and faces the crowds, not the rich, not the scribes or pharisees, but the crowds who came along. And Jesus says, “Now, what about you? Are you ready to follow me? Are you willing to carry a cross?” He looked at them, and they looked at Him and there was silence.
And for some people today, there is silence too. They thought Jesus was on the way to an empire; he knew he was on the way to the cross. They thought discipleship had no costs; He, now on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die, was aware of its demands.
People would follow Jesus but without a cross, without personal cost, without sacrifice. Yet, the cross whether we like it or not is the proving ground of our discipleship. It is where we show our fidelity, our loyalty to Christ. Like the crowds, we can be fans of Jesus. The Lord had wonderful things to say, great stories, beautiful words that we can quote. But the call is not to quote Jesus, but to follow Him, to follow Him with our cross.
So, let’s set the record straight in this world of noise that we currently live in. We all have a cross. Everyone of us here, those joining us on the webcam – we all have a cross. It is obviously not a wooden cross like that of Calvary. But it can be the cross of a family problem, an illness, a troubling or troubled person at work. It can be a personality burden of our own that we have. It can be responsibilities we have or the cross of trying to be a family. Every cross is unique. Our cross is like our fingerprint. No two are the same. People may have the same illness, but the pain is experienced differently, uniquely, personally.
There are other crosses we carry besides our personal crosses. There are crosses generated from the world in which we live. There is another kind of cross we carry as a Church. That is the cross of handing on the faith to the next generation. It is never easy.
The cross is part of everyone’s life. Our personal cross, the cross of the times in which we live, and the cross of handing on the faith are all part of our lives. We can either stare at the cross complain about it, curse it, ignore it, deny it, or follow Jesus by carrying it as faithfully as we can.
Commenting and talking about the cross doesn’t bring salvation. Carrying it as a faithful Christian does. Each Mass is a chance to break the silence that follows Jesus’ question about whether we are willing to carry our cross and follow Him.
The cross we have can change us in a very personal way from a fan of Christ into a disciple. The reason why wise people still choose to follow Jesus in 2022, despite the price, is that all things considered, that means choosing life over death.