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Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Is, 50: 5-9; Mark 8: 27-35

There are so many things to admire about Jesus. One of them is His calm and serene disposition throughout His life - despite the fact that He knew what suffering was in store for Him. Today's first reading from Isaiah foretold this. Yet when we witness the calm way He conducts His life we would never have thought that He had any idea of what would have to be endured.

When I was a young boy at boarding school the strap was given before we retired for the night. This meant that breaking the rules early in the day left us with hours to worry about the punishment! Waiting was worse than the punishment itself.

Yet Jesus had years of knowing how His life on Earth would end: the arrest, false trial, brutal scourging, crowning with thorns, carrying that heavy cross and being nailed to it - and He still led a peaceful life. That is what I call being really brave.

Suffering is part of every person’s life who wishes to follow Christ. In today’s Gospel Jesus announces, “If you wish to be a disciple of mine you must carry your cross and follow Me.”

Why do people have to suffer? This question has been asked time and time again in every generation. Jesus never directly answered that question but through His acceptance of His cross He gave suffering meaning and shows us the value of suffering.

Not one of us can escape suffering in one form or another. Some people have to face physical suffering. Only recently I saw a tremendous change in a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before she received the news she was a happy go lucky person but the news of the
illness changed her whole outlook on life. She feared for her future and wondered how she would cope with the devastating news.

For others the suffering is mental. A cloud of depression weighs heavily on them and they wonder if they will ever smile again. And for some people their suffering is spiritual. They are plagued with guilt.

They just cannot forgive themselves for what they have done. No amount of times of mentioning it in confession can ease the pain their sin has

Whatever suffering we have to endure, be it physical, mental or spiritual, we have to look at our Master. We see Him encouraging us to take up our cross and follow Him. His acceptance and endurance of the Cross brought about our salvation. We must never waste suffering. We will never know what our acceptance of our cross will do. Each cross we endure is a rung on the ladder leading us to Heaven – or contributing to another person's journey to eternal life.

Many of us find the circumstances of life hand our crosses to us. For parents, it can be the worry of how to cope with wayward headstrong teenagers. For wives, the cross could be how to cope with a drunken or gambling husband. For a husband, it could be living with a lazy wife. For teenagers, it may be the endless task of finding work and being rejected because of no previous work experience.

The cross, which is planted in the centre of Christian living, is not an invitation to lead a miserable life but a call to express our love for God and to grow in His love. There is no doubt that God’s ways of doing things run contrary to our expectations. We must not be numbered among those who would like to throw the cross out of Christianity!

Lord Jesus, to be Your follower we must not only accept but also embrace our cross, unite it with that of Yours and so rise to glory like You did.

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