The Way of the Cross

The Way of the Cross
The Sunday Gospel
Fr Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.

As we advance in our readings from Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 16:21-27), Jesus leaves Galilee and heads south towards Jerusalem. He tries to make it clear to his disciples that Jerusalem would mean his rejection, his death on the cross and rising on the third day. This is a shock to the disciples. Peter takes Jesus aside and starts to remonstrate with him. “Heaven preserve you, Lord, this must not happen to you.” But Jesus repeats that his way is the way of the cross and resurrection while it is a temptation of Satan to seek the way of selfishness. To be a genuine follower of Jesus one must go through a process of taking up the crosses of life and dying to selfishness. “Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Why the cross

How could a loving, merciful Father permit the cruelty of the cross? The answer is in compassion. Compassion means suffering with. Jesus would be with us in our suffering. His way of saving was not at a safe distance, aloof from the messy side of life. On the cross he is nailed to all human pain and distress. Having loved his own while in this world he loved them to the utmost. How much poorer would be our knowledge of God’s love if Jesus had saved us in a painless way! There are depths in the human heart which are not discovered until one shares in the cross of Jesus Christ. “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
Saint Paul tells us in today’s Second Reading, “Think of God’s mercy and worship him in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.” What is this new mind?

The Wrong Ladder

Pope Francis, constantly taking us back to the mind and ideals of Jesus, wrote: “Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since it is more blessed to give than to receive. We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in our own comforts. Such a life is nothing more than slow suicide” (The Joy of the Gospel). Slow suicide! A life centred on personal comfort chokes the life-energy out of Christian charity. What does it profit a person to win the whole world and ruin one’s life? It is like climbing to the top of the ladder of success only to find one had climbed the wrong wall. Always remember that the way of the cross is also the path to rising in new life.

Prayers

Inspired by the compassion of God as revealed to us in the cross of Jesus Christ, we pray.
May we grow in our understanding of God’s compassion, as we contemplate the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
May people who are suffering in any way recognise that Jesus is very close to them.
May we do all we can to alleviate suffering and to bring comfort to people.
May we never try to gain worldly success or wealth and ruin our souls in the process.
(Add prayers for any local, personal or topical intention)
God of mercy and compassion, hear the prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen

Silvester O’Flynn has recently published a book Gospel Reflections and Prayers (Columba Books).