The WORD in other words (2023) by Fr. Noel Rebancos, SVD — Catholic Trade Manila
Friday 6th Week in Ordinary Time
Photo: Fr Jose Carlos Rapadas SVD
Facebook came up with a game popularly called “Challenge.” One is dared to imitate a particular challenge which varies from eating, dancing, sports, singing, and other interesting challenges that one can imagine. The fun lies in doing the challenge with creativity, ingenuity, and participation. Since this is a game, the focus is not on winning but on having fun. The more people doing the challenge, the merrier it becomes.
Jesus in the Gospel also poses a challenge: his challenge is not for fun but for a relationship, for commitment, for life. He says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8, 35) Yes, taking up the cross is the challenge of following Jesus. In real-life situations, sad to say, we try as much as possible to avoid the cross because the cross is synonymous with pain, suffering, trials, difficulties, and problems. We fear suffering, and we fear to go through so many crosses in life.
On the other hand, the cross brings about a positive effect in life. Having crosses in life invites us to draw near to God. In times of plenty, we hardly think of the Lord. A life of abundance pushes God out of the picture. In experiencing sufferings and difficulties, “our resilience is being tested, and we grow closer to God.” The pandemic, for instance, allows us to discover the presence of God and put our trust in his care and protection. We realize that we are not alone in carrying our crosses in life. Christ was the first to take the cross, and he is there to be with us and help us.
He is our model in carrying the cross. The challenge is to imitate Jesus’ way of carrying the cross – he carries the cross with love. This is what he wants us to do: to bear the cross with love. Taking up the cross without love is taking up a wooden cross devoid of its meaning and significance. It becomes a lifeless cross. Hence, the cross finds its meaning only when viewed through the lens of love. That love brings us from Calvary to the Resurrection.
We are challenged then to check our intention of carrying our crosses daily. I want to borrow a photo message from the Messenger of Facebook that summarizes the challenge of carrying the cross with love: “The symbol of love is not the heart, but the cross. You and I are carrying the cross because of love. The heart stops beating, but the man of the cross (Jesus) never stops loving.”