Jesus has strong words in today’s Gospel about what will be required of His disciples. Long before He Himself dies on the cross, He tells His followers that they too must pick up their crosses, symbols of agony, oppression and humiliation, to truly follow Him. This can hardly seem like good news.
In truth, our crosses do rarely seem like good news. They are arduous, and painful, and we might think a merciful God would spare His beloved sons and daughters such fates. But I would like to suggest another interpretation. God never offers a cross we cannot carry, or rather, that He cannot help us carry, if we let Him. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer compared “costly grace” and “cheap grace.” The latter is grace without the cross, and so without Jesus. As leader of the German Confessing Church, which professed Jesus in opposition to the Nazis, Bonhoeffer “hated” (to use the word in today’s gospel) his own life to the extent of being executed on April 9, 1945, only a few weeks before World War II ended in Europe.
In comparing these two “graces,” Bonhoeffer writes of “the person who hears the call to discipleship and wants to follow but feels obliged to insist on his own terms to the level of human understanding. The disciple places himself at the Master’s disposal, but at the same time retains the right to dictate his own terms. But then discipleship is no longer discipleship, but a program of our own to be arranged to suit ourselves, and to be judged in accordance with the standards of rational ethic.”
We are not in control of the crosses that life presents. And we are not even necessarily in control of our own ability to carry them. But we are able to go to God, the God of whom the psalmist sings, our refuge and our strength, and ask for His help in taking up our cross. God will never abandon us, or deny us the help we need. After all, Jesus carried His cross for all of us, and stands ready to shoulder our burdens beside us, always.
I wish you and your loved ones blessings of good health and great hope. Please continue to pray, with me, for peace in our world.
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