In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.
All around us, dear brothers and sisters, our world is trying to find a better way of life, a more comfortable way of life, a way of life which brings money, power, possessions and success. A great multitude of books and videos are out there promising the way to riches and the life-style of your dreams. And mankind has been doing this from the beginning, seeking gods—spiritual beings—who could provide a short-cut to power, beauty, a bountiful harvest, fertility. And in the midst of this great array of promises of progress and wealth, Christ offers to you and to me the only way to Truth and Life, he offers to us the Cross.
Were we to invent a religion it certainly would not be Christianity. For many outside faith they seem to think religion is about asking for something and being given it; some of them have tried religion and found it wanting—their prayer for a new job, or a good grade, or a fortuitous event went unanswered, so too their prayers for healing, for peace, for reconciliation seemed unheard. Yet such people, perhaps through no fault of their own, have perceived Christianity to be a pagan religion, a quid pro quo, an exchange of worship and prayer for success.
The Lord said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” And this statement is as radical today in our consumer-led society as it was in the first century. In the context of the whole Gospel this is clearly not a short initiation from which we can start to gain successes, this is a life-time commitment. Notice too, dear brothers and sisters, there is no compulsion from Christ—we are not forced into the Kingdom, “if anyone wishes to come after me,” still leaves us with free will, the ability to choose Christ or reject him.
Come! Come, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, and take up your cross. Life, if it is to be True Life, abundant Life, the fulness of Life, comes only through taking up our own cross and following the Way, the Truth and the Life (see John 14:6), following Christ. And the God who is love (see 1 John 4:8) will see our love for our neighbour when we carry our own crosses in emulation of Christ: “Greater love has no one than this,” says the Lord, “than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Carry our own crosses because we love God and love our neighbour, carry our own crosses because we desire to be united to Christ, carry our own crosses because we would take suffering on ourselves so that others may come to knowledge of the Lord.
And so, if we are to be Christians, followers of our Lord, we must take up our own crosses. And to the world which offers money and power we present the Cross, because what the world offers are mere trinkets and distractions but what Christ and his Church offers is Life.
That by our own crosses we may participate in the Death and Resurrection of our Lord and God Jesus Christ and come to knowledge of the Father through him and by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Brethren, knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
— Galatians 2:16–20
The Lord said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.
— Mark 8:34–38; 9:1