The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
presence. He cannot enter locked doors and windows that he cannot open. God respects our freedom. Only the open can believe and see.
Knowledge automatically brings us to love. We only love that which we know. Our love for the Lord must be authentic and real. Hypocrisy repulsed the Lord. "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (James 2: 14).
Love brings about transformation. The goal of discipleship is to die to self so that the Lord may live within us. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8: 34).
The narrow road of the Gospel is difficult to live. Nevertheless, it is the only road that leads to eternal life in heaven.
In this Sunday's gospel narrative we discover the drastic invitation of Jesus. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8: 34). The cross, our personal cross or crosses which cannot be transferred to anyone else is an essential aspect to our walk with the Lord Jesus.
Jesus and the two thieves were not the only people ever crucified by the Roman Empire. Crucifixion was the form of capital punishment used for those people living under Roman jurisdiction who were not actually Roman citizens. Beheading was the punishment for Roman citizens, crucifixion for non-Roman citizens.
Just think how horrible crucifixion must have been if the Romans spared their own citizens such a terrible death. So painful was death by crucifixion that the Romans eventually did away with it as a form of capital punishment.
Too many of our contemporaries seek an easy life without suffering, without sacrifice, without renunciation, without mortification. Many people would like to stand under the cross of Jesus and cry out as did the jeering crowd on the first Good Friday, "Come down from the cross."
However, there is only one Jesus, and he is the crucified Jesus who rose from the dead. Christianity without the cross is not Christianity; only through the cross of Jesus have we gained salvation.
So, when we suffer, we should not consider our suffering a burden; rather we must look upon the cross we bear as an immense gift from God.
Mother Theresa once said: "Suffering is a sign that we have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss us and that he can show that he is in love with us by giving us an opportunity to share in his passion".
Undoubtedly there are many forms of suffering that are quite mysterious. Moreover, the need to carry our cross as an essential dimension of Christianity does not take away the need and the duty to seek cures for illnesses and to make this life a better life for everyone. Although human progress continues to make this earth a better place for everyone, suffering, in one form or another, will always be a part of our existence. The meaning of suffering does make sense when we contemplate Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead.
When we ask the question why, we need to look upon the crucifix. It is only there that we will find the meaning of suffering and the exact reason why we must carry our own cross.
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it" (Mark 8: 34-35).
Father James Farfaglia, is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Sunday homily, homilies, catholic spirituality, Jesus, gosples, discipleship, Fr James Farfaglia
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