September 4, 2020


Now is a time to take up our crosses and follow Christ

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.’ He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.’ Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me’ ” (Mt 16:21-24).

If ever there was a time we wondered about “taking up our crosses” and following Jesus, it seems now—more than ever before—could be that hour for many of us.

We are approaching six months into the coronavirus pandemic here in the United States where our death toll is moving toward 200,000, where we are more unsettled as we see civil unrest and violence continuing across our country, and where we are hoping and praying a sense of normalcy soon returns for all our children in school—be it at the elementary, high school or college level. And a list of other challenges we’ve faced in 2020 could easily fill up this entire space.

Make no mistake: no matter your age, race or ethnicity, this is a challenging time for all. And carrying our crosses and growing in our lives of faith will be important factors if we are to overcome whatever else awaits us.

In his Angelus address on Aug. 30 at the Vatican, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 16:21-27) and how the Lord’s disciples—including St. Peter—were unable to grasp the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection because their faith was “still immature, and too closely tied to the mentality of the world.”

The pope said that for the disciples—and for us, too—the cross is seen as a “stumbling block,” whereas Jesus considers the “stumbling block [to be] escaping the cross, which would mean avoiding the Father’s will.”

Our faith teaches us—and it by no means is an easy task—that if we want to become Jesus’ followers, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him.

Our Holy Father noted that Jesus is indicating “the way of the true disciple, showing two attitudes”: renouncing oneself, which means a real conversion, and taking up one’s cross, which “is not just a matter of patiently enduring daily tribulations, but of bearing with faith and responsibility that part of toil and suffering that the struggle against evil entails.”

We understand that 2020 has had its share of hardships, and we believe it is providing us with a wake-up call as we travel down a road most of us could have never imagined. And where this journey takes us may well depend on recalibrating our focus on what’s truly important in life, mainly our faith, family and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

As we move forward, we must remember, as Pope Francis said, the task of “taking up the cross” means we become participants “with Christ in the salvation of the world.”

Images of the cross, he added, should be a “sign of our desire to be united with Christ through lovingly serving our brothers and sisters, especially the littlest and the weakest.”

When we look at a crucifix, the pope said we should reflect on the fact that Jesus “has accomplished his mission, giving his life, spilling his blood for the forgiveness of sins.” In order to be his disciples, he continued, we must “imitate him, expending our life unreservedly for love of God and neighbor.”

So many of our neighbors desperately need our prayers. Our daily petitions must include the littlest and weakest. We must also remember those who are out of work through no fault of their own. And others who have lost loved ones because of COVID-19, which has led to a worldwide pandemic. The list could go on and on.

We wonder what these final four months of 2020 will bring as we try and live our vocations as missionary disciples to the best of our ability. As we anxiously await what each new day brings, we must keep our faith at the heart of all we say and do.

If we are truly people of faith, then we recognize there are crosses for each of us to carry. No one is immune from life’s challenges. But we must not forget that Jesus is with us, every step of the way, carrying us when necessary.

—Mike Krokos

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