One day, a little girl is sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly notices that her mother has several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast to her brunette head. She looks at her mother and inquisitively asks, "Why are some of your hairs white, mom?" Her mother replied, "Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white." The little girl thought about this for a while, and then said, "Momma, how come all of grandma's hairs are white?"
Each one of us is a result of some of the decisions our parents and our friends made in their lives. We have choices and we have decisions. Dumbledore says to Harry Potter that the choices we make define us far more than our abilities. Choices are stepping-stones to the decisions we make. They clarify and purify the vagueness and uncertainty of our actions. They refine and lighten the muddy and heavy loads of our souls. They filter and cleanse the mist and cloudiness of our lives.
Our good Lord presents three choices we need to face. These are choices that face the reality of discomfort, displeasure and disappointment. We have a choice whether to take up our crosses or not, whether to renounce and sacrifice our possessions and attachments or not, and whether to follow Jesus or not.
What does it take to bear our crosses in life? A lot, that sometimes we complain and argue with God about it. A lot, that sometimes we blame God for it. A lot, that sometimes we feel like giving up. And yet, during those times and moments we are reminded again what Jesus said, “Whoever does not carry his own cross cannot be my disciple.”
We have different crosses to bear. The secret in lightening its heavy burden lies in each one of us. Jesus was not alone in carrying His cross on the way to Calvary. Simon of Cyrene helped him. God knows we cannot carry our crosses all the way with our own strength. We need his help and his grace. God knows about the burden, the guilt and the load that our crosses create. We need his strength and his will. If we are crushed right now under the burden of a heavy load, know and believe that our Simon will come to help us. God reveals himself in people, places and events way beyond our knowledge and recognition. He always has a back up plan because we are not expendables.
What does it take to sacrifice our attachments and possessions? A lot, that sometimes we cry in our own loneliness. A lot, that sometimes we feel so detached from one another. A lot, that sometimes we feel like breaking down. And yet, during those times and moments we are reminded again what Jesus said, “Whoever does not deny himself cannot be my disciple.”
We are attached to many things and possessed by many persons. The secret in detachment lies in each one of us. Jesus felt so alone in the Garden of Gethsemane that he longed for the company of his disciples, “Can you not watch with me for even an hour?” God knows our aloneness and loneliness. That is why he offers Himself to be our companion on the journey.
No human relationship is as intimate and loving than our relationship with Jesus. No possession and attachment is as rewarding and fulfilling than our attachment to God. And no love can be as forgiving, caring and unending than the love of God.
Finally, what does it take to follow Jesus? A lot, that sometimes our troubles look bigger than our faith, our problems look bigger than our hope, that our concerns and disappointments look bigger than our love for one another. Even when we have these moments, we still have a choice. We can choose to give up, give in or give out. We have the choice to doubt, to despair or to drop out.
But we can also choose to protect, persevere and press on. We have the choice to stand up, look up, reach up and lift up.
All human relationships fail in time. So are the addictions, possessions and attachments we have. What will be left at the end of time are those who believed and persevered in what is right. What is left are those whom we did not probably consider as right. What is left are those who made it right.
If we have ever asked ourselves the following questions that if God is good, why do bad things happen to innocent and good people, that if God is good, why does suffering exist at all and death happens, that if God is good why do we still feel pain and boredom, loneliness and dissatisfaction, failure and disappointment, then we have some answers to our questions in what Jesus is reminding us today.
Only our relationship with Jesus can make it right. We will have difficulties along the way, but that is right. We will be hated because of Him, but that is still right. And to follow him as his disciple is the thing we must do, because that is right.
It is a choice we have to take. It is a decision we have to make.
5 September 2010