13th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

It seems clear from the readings this week that what we are offered in the Christian life is identity with Jesus Christ.  St. Paul says, “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”  And Jesus himself promises “”Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”  This is what St. Irenaeus called participation in Christ that, for believers, our lives are a mirror of Jesus.  And I promise you that if you choose to live the life of Christ, you will be more satisfied, complete, purposeful and loving than you could ever imagine.  Which leaves me with one question, “Do want to live as Christ did?”

One does not have to look too far as to why you may not. To say yes to Christ’s life is to say yes to all the painful and tragic things that happened to him.  To be fair, it is not like Jesus hid the fact.  After all we spoke of being buried and dying with Christ.  Jesus makes clear the implication of living “with” him.  “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”  Suffering is the entrance fee into the life of Christ. Is that something you want?  In a world that does not value suffering and only resists it, which finds any way but the easiest way abhorrent, can we say yes to suffering; can we say yes to the cross?  In other words, every day when you choose your clothes (admittedly more of a challenge for you than for me) are you also ready to eye your cross and choose to carry it that day?

Well the one thing I can say that both those who carry their cross and those that don’t is that they will both suffer.  Suffering is inevitable to those who love.  Once you make the commitment to love, you become vulnerable.  Once you say that someone’s life matters more than yours, you relinquish all control.  If you want to avoid suffering, you could avoid love, but that indeed is the darkest and deepest suffering – a suffering of true loneliness and despair without the redeeming hope that comes from love.  So the choice is not whether you allow yourself to suffer; it is would you rather suffer with Christ?

Suffering with Christ, carrying your cross is simply putting your love into action.  It is holding precious what God holds precious. It is surrendering to love.

This year I asked the kindergartners at our school to ask me questions.  The little buggers gave me their best.  Who made God?  Who made the devil?  Did Jesus have any friends? And, most hurtful, do you have any friends?  They also asked me if Jesus wanted to die on the cross.  Now isn’t that a question?

And I thought of the agony in the garden. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”  I thought of how much Jesus valued life and must have hated to have it torn away.  Then I realized the question does not fit into a Jesus category.  It was never a question of “want.”  He only wanted to love his best at all times for all people.  And that is the ideal of freedom – to always choose love.

So if we are to be identified with Christ by the splash of baptismal water, we are invited to make all our decisions for love.  We are capable of it. And we can live by it. Our cross is not a cross of useless torture, but the sacrifice embedded in love.    It is the joy of being called a Christian.