TCC Sunday Reading Reflection

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(The Catholic Conspiracy’s newest weekly feature – a reflection based on one or more aspects from the Sunday Mass readings. We hope you find our new series inspiring and interesting. Thanks for reading!)

June 19, 2016
Zec 12:10-11, 13:1    Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8    Gal 3:26-29    Lk 9:18-24

Lk 9:23 – Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

It’s no coincidence the longest chapter in Thomas à Kempis’ “My Imitation of Christ” is Book II, Chapter 12, “The Royal Way of the Holy Cross”. One cannot imitate Christ without engaging the cross. They are inseparable. It’s my favorite chapter, having read it countless times, with many passages underlined, highlighted, and bracketed. I could meditate on it for a solid year, and its truths and wisdom would be far from exhausted.

It starts: “To many it seems a hard saying: ‘Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus.’ But it will be much harder to hear that last word: ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.’ For they who now willingly hear and follow the word of the cross shall not then be afraid of eternal condemnation.”

It only gets better from there.

I want to focus on two parts of the aforementioned Gospel verse.

First, taking up one’s cross daily. The disciples couldn’t possibly understand this. They knew from living under Roman rule what the cross meant. It was their prime instrument of torture and control. Yet here was Jesus, instructing them to take up their cross daily. It must have sounded preposterous! It wasn’t until after His resurrection and ascension, until after Pentecost, that they understood.

If they had asked “Lord, what do you mean?”, perhaps Jesus’s answer would have been similar to à Kempis’ words:

“In the cross is salvation; in the cross is life; in the cross is protection from thy enemies. In the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness; in the cross is strength of mind; in the cross is joy of spirit. In the cross is the height of virtue; in the cross is the perfection of sanctity. There is no health of soul nor hope of eternal life but in the cross.”

We can believe that, because Jesus has shown us the way. He defeated the cross through His sacrifice on the cross. And since no servant is greater than his master, we know our crosses are inevitable, so we can be confident His grace will carry us.

Second: denying oneself. I’ve struggled with this for years – what does ‘deny oneself’ mean? I think I’ve found the answer. It was on a prayer card a priest gave me: The Litany of Humility, by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val. It’s a powerful prayer.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Humility is the key. What was Christ’s death on the cross but the ultimate act of humiliation? What was His death, but the greatest sign of self-denial? “Not my will, but thine, be done.” I’ve found the humbler I become, the lighter my cross becomes. Humility and the cross – the two are inextricably linked. He becomes my strength through my weakness. I’m certainly not perfect at it, and I don’t embrace my crosses as I should. But as à Kempis wrote:

“If, indeed, there had been anything better and more beneficial to man’s salvation than suffering [bearing one’s cross], Christ certainly would have showed it by word and example.” 

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