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Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Deut. 4:32-40 & Mt. 16:24-28

We must lose our life for Jesus' sake in order to save it and thus never experience death, Saint Matthew tells us in today's Gospel reading.

For each of us this can be achieved, in part, by how we respond when Jesus asks us to carry our cross. What does that word ‘cross’ conjure up in our minds? Do we draw a long face and say ‘O no! This means penance, and doing what we dislike?’

The word ‘cross’ should remind us it was the instrument that Jesus used to win our salvation. Our acceptance of the cross we are given is the means He uses to draw us closer to Him. It should be obvious, then, that accepting and carrying our cross will be of great benefit to us and, therefore, that Jesus can gauge our love for Him by our reaction to the cross. Through the cross Jesus wants to draw us to Himself and give us the fullness of life; by losing our life for Jesus’ sake we unite ourselves to Him and gain His life.

When we hear the word 'cross' we tend to think of the difficulty, hardship or pain we are facing at the moment, or have experienced in the past. Living in this world is not always easy. But we can look upon the difficulty, hardship or pain as a time when Jesus will show us areas of our lives that need to be changed. In one sense we are being 'crucified' with Him and in another we are, like Simon of Cyrene, helping Christ to carry His Cross and to bear His sufferings. For these reasons our cross is always the path to a deeper experience of the life that Jesus won for us.

Today's first reading also speaks about passing from an old life to a new one. God brought the Israelites from being slaves in Egypt to the Promised Land. As they spent time wandering in the desert, the people experienced God freeing them from unbelief and from selfish ways, forming them into new people. The journey was not always easy, but it was very fruitful!

When we have to face our own 'cross' God wants us to see it as the means by which we can change our lives for the better – for example, being grateful to God for the good things we have in life instead of lamenting about what we have not - and to experience the intimacy with God that Jesus came to give us. Our journey, too, will not be easy, but again it should be fruitful.

So let us each day try to embrace the cross we have been asked to carry, for our good and the good of others, so that God can fill us with His way of thinking, acting and living. In this way we can be confident that the cross will lead us to eternal life in God’s presence, free from all sorrow and death.

Glory be to You, Lord Jesus, for putting our old life to death through Your cross and giving us new life! Help us to take up our cross and follow You cheerfully today, and every day.

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