My dear friends, continue to do as I tell you, as you always have; not only as you did when I was there with you, but even more now that I am no longer there; and work for your salvation ‘in fear and trembling.’ It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life. This would give me something to be proud of for the Day of Christ, and would mean that I had not run in the race and exhausted myself for nothing. And then, if my blood has to be shed as part of your own sacrifice and offering-which is your faith I shall still be happy and rejoice with all of you, and you must be just as happy and rejoice with me.
Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “‘ Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”
Before we were Catholics, my family and I were Buddhists. I remember the first time I embraced Christianity. At the time, I was a fresh-eyed fifteen year old. What did I know about what it would mean to embrace Christ? Instead of encouragement and support, I was yelled at by my father for fraternizing with ‘those Christian fanatics’ (he had a real flair for hyperbole in his younger days!). Any talk of Christ at home was considered an act of rebellion. I remember countless dinner table conversations spiralling into shouting matches when I tried to witness to him. So I staged a revolt in my own way. I held my faith in my heart and continued praying and witnessing to him. When he dragged us for worship at the Buddhist temple, I would sit outside in the hot sun and resolutely refuse to enter. I wouldn’t pick up his joss sticks or pray at the ancestral altar in my grandmother’s house. Typical teenage behaviour, and then some! In the end, Dad relented and even found his own way to Christ. It took him 20 years, but that’s just a blink of an eye in God’s time. Dad is back with God now, and I know he is well and at peace.
Looking back, that act of rebellion as a willful 15yr old was my first taste of ‘carrying my cross’. I was completely out of my depth. What did I know about what I was doing? I didn’t know where to look for help. There was no internet, no Universalis or USCCB or Word On Fire homilies to give me hope. I didn’t have guidance. My father banned me from Christian Bible study groups and from going to mass, so I didn’t have a steady support network. I only had the Holy Bible, and a King James’ at that, not the easiest of versions to grasp. And I had prayer. So I turned to both.
Connecting the dots backwards, I can see that every trial back then was preparation for my faith journey today. With necessity and the Holy Spirit as my teachers, I reached for His Word because it was the only source of comfort that I had. It’s a common complaint these days that it’s hard to read the Bible, that the verses are difficult to decipher. Yes, the Word can be hard to grasp, so I will always be thankful for the start that I got because of my circumstances.
God helped me to carry my cross as a 15yr old; He’s still helping me to carry my cross as an adult. The challenges are a little more complex now (family, marriage, children) and the path ahead, more obscured than before. But His Word, the Holy Spirit and prayer are the same, reassuring constants I hold on to. God’s faithfulness to us truly never ends.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the courage, patience and fortitude to carry our crosses daily.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His Word, for the Holy Spirit’s inspiring power and for the people God puts in our lives to give us help, hope, encouragement and sustenance.