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Take Up Your Cross

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

We read from the Gospel of Matthew Christ’s formula for following Him.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?
“For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behavior. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.”

Christ is saying, “Whoever wants to be my follower must deny his very self, must take up his cross every day, and thus walk in my footsteps.”

It is remarkable how many admirers Christ has had over the centuries. Surely, when God became man and walked among men, the divine attributes that He revealed were attractive and appealing in the extreme. Jesus, being God, reveals to us who God is—the all-holy One. Holiness is attractive. In fact, nothing is more appealing on earth than genuine, sincere sanctity.

Jesus was the all-good God, dressed you might say, in the flesh of man. Goodness too is very appealing. Come to think of it, nothing else is. And other things being equal, people attract us or draw us to themselves in the exact degree of their goodness. Some people are not as appealing to us as they should be because we don’t really know how good they are. What an advantage it is to at least occasionally just spend a prayerful half-hour thinking about the good qualities of someone about whom you are not quite sure, and ask the Lord to show you.

Jesus was the all-beautiful God walking among human beings. Beauty draws just on being seen. In fact, after some twenty-five hundred years of philosophical speculation, that is the best definition that philosophers have been able to come up with of beauty: that which draws on just being seen.

With all of these marvelous attributes of the divinity shining forth through His humanity, why doesn’t Christ have more followers? Now that’s a mystery for you! The reason, how well we know, is because this God who became Incarnate in the person of Christ is not only the all-holy One, the infinitely-good One, and the all-beautiful God in human form. He is the just God who became man, and as the just God who made man, He has the right to make demands on man. So He did and so He does. And the moment even God makes demands of human nature, what does man naturally do? He shrinks from whatever burden even the Almighty expects and has a right to demand of His creatures.

Yet, let us reassure ourselves that whatever demands God makes—not of the human race in general, but of us individually—He never demands more than we can bear, or that we can take, or that we can put up with or endure, or live up to. Unlike human beings, who when they ask us or tell us to do whatever they have a right to ask or demand, when God lays commands on His creatures, He also always, infallibly, and invariably gives us all the strength we need to live up to what He wants us to do.

Jesus is God. He is a very loving God. However, let us make sure that we don’t forget love demands, love is jealous, love expects a lot; and in this case, we are speaking of the love that God has for us. Because of this love He wants us to do so much for Him, and He will endow us with more grace than we need to live up to His expectations—the expectations of a jealous God who became man for one reason, that we might show Him how much we love Him by doing everything He asks of us. All His demands are the demands of love.

Transcription of the Homily
by Father John A. Hardon, S.J. to the:
Handmaids of the Precious Blood

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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