OPTION 1: 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 was so 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 which was productive and fertile.
The father said to the younger 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 younger son was so sad because he neither received nor inherited the house and the land. 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. I remember St. Teresa of Avila complaining to the Lord why she always had the cross, trials and difficulties in her lives. Jesus answered her: “That is the way how 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. There are three things we must be prepared to do in order to live the Christian life:
First, we must deny ourselves. Jesus Christ demands self-denial, that is, self-negations a necessary condition of discipleship. In a strict sense, this is called self-denial which is kenosis in Greek which means self-emptying. What is to be negated is not personal self. Jesus does not plan to turn us into zombies, nor does he ask us to volunteer for a robot role. The required denial is of carnal self, the egocentric, self-deifying urge with which we were born and which dominates us so ruinously in our natural state. It is because usually we treat 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 so that Christ may acknowledge us in heaven for the reason that we acknowledge Him before other people. Self-denial means giving up something like we have to give up our vices like drinking, smoking, womanizing, gambling and others. It means we have to set aside our own self and put God at the center of our lives.
If you are traveling, sometimes 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 completely his addiction to illegal drugs and focus himself on the things of God. I remember also Fr. Greto Bugas who has a regular abstinence from drinking at the start of Lenten Season until Easter Sunday in order to reflect more on the things of God for some good cause. But of course it is for detoxification.
But this is only a very small part of what Jesus meant by self-denial. To deny oneself 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. What kind of a cross we must carry? Is it a bad luck or a blessing? Billy Graham in his “The Offense of the Cross,” said that when Jesus said, “If you are going to follow me, you have to take up a cross,” it was the same as saying, “Come and bring your electric chair with you. Take up the gas chamber and follow me.” He did not have a beautiful gold cross in mind, the cross on a church steeple or on the front of your Bible. Jesus had in mind a place of execution. And I remember too this story of a little girl who had reached the high point in school when she was being initiated into the wonders of arithmetic. Minus sign, plus sign and division sign had made a deep impression on her. One day when they attended a Mass in the Church she looked intently at a gold 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. The redemption pictured by the cross has put a big plus sign in our lives. The cross is a positive sign in our lives. We, priests when we give a blessing or when we bless things for spiritual use, we make the sign of the cross.
We carry our cross if everyday we are faithful to Him. Are we faithful with our prayer as well as in attending Masses? Are we faithful in reading the Bible by which we k now Christ more fully? If not, then let us think and reflect all over again.
And so therefore I will tell you frankly, there is no other way to a meaningful life in this world and to eternal life except the way of the cross, that is, the narrow, steep, winding road of sacrifice and suffering. It is not the way of luxury, pleasure, vice, sin and good time and so be careful.
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. I remember when I was still a child we used to play a game called “Follow the Leader.” Our leader in the game usually went ahead of us and did all kinds of hard things and we his followers must do the same like: if he swim or jump across a canal or climb a tree and many more, we followed what he did. If one of us followers would not follow or were failed to follow, he was punished and laughed at.
In life, we are followers. Like for example, little girls imitate their mothers in cooking, gardening and tending children. A boy, digs, shoots, paddles and walks like what his father does. It is a law of life that 85% of what we learn, we learn from sight. We do not pick skills from words but from the deeds we see and observe. We are born imitators, unfortunately, also of evil.
That is why it is important that we, religious leaders, parents, managers, old people, leaders and those who have positions, to set examples for people around us. We are their heroes and heroines; we are special in the eyes of many of them. They look up to us; they watch us and imitate us all the times. If we say: “Do what I do. Follow me,” then we are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. Congratulation!
Obstacles to God:
- Self – Selfish, lack of appreciation
- Sincerity is Questionable
- Seldom we: Pray, Worship, Read the Bible, Help
“Self-denial” or self-emptying, that is, like a dipper (Kabo) if full there is no need to be filled in again but if not, then this is ready to be filled in again.
“Follow Me.” Abraham Lincoln once told of a farmer who was trying to teach his son how to plow a straight furrow. After the horse had been hitched up and everything was ready, he told the boy to keep his eye on some objects at the end of the field and plow straight toward it. “Do you see that cow lying down over there?” he asked. “Keep your eye on her and plow straight ahead.” The boy started plowing and the father went about his chores. When he returned a little later to see what progress had been made he was shocked to find, instead of the straight line, something that looked more like a question mark. The boy has obeyed his instructions. The trouble was the cow had moved.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A