Taking up our cross after Jesus

Homily for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Recently I watched a video entitled Reconciliation: A Sacrament of Healing which is an interview with Sister Briege McKenna. In the course of the interview she tells of an encounter she had with a young catholic woman at an airport. The woman was six months pregnant and going to have an abortion the next morning at 9am. The woman said, “God is a God of love. He understands. We can’t afford a mentally handicapped child.” All her other young catholic friends were in agreement with her. Sr. Briege told her the truth, “This is a sin. Sin destroys and distorts. This is murder.” The woman complained to Sr. Briege and said she was harsh. At this stage in the interview Sr. Briege paused and reflected: people say you shouldn’t make people feel sad but sometimes it takes hurt to heal. The woman had convinced herself that abortion is the only way and that only the Church talks against it. Sr. Briege said to her, “Don’t say tomorrow morning when you walk into the abortion clinic that you didn’t know it’s murder because it’s ignorance if you didn’t know but you know now so you have to make a decision between evil and right.” The following morning when the woman went into the clinic she heard Sr. Briege’s voice from the previous day and got afraid and walked out. Two months later she gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy. The doctor shrugged his shoulders and said, “We can all make mistakes.” The woman went to Sr. Briege and said she had rationalized away the terrible evil not only in abortion but also in many ways. She and her husband’s eyes were opened. They had been going to Mass but until then it didn’t interfere in their private lives. She thanked Sr. Briege and said, “Look at my beautiful baby. Had you not confronted me with the evil, sin and horror of abortion I would have murdered this child.”

That incident reminds me of today’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-35).

  • The disciples had been with Jesus for a long time now, but they still did not really know him. The woman and her husband had been going to Mass but admitted it did not interfere in their lives.  

  • When Jesus told the disciples he would have to suffer and die Peter objected (Mark 8:32). When Sr .Briege told the woman abortion is a sin and is murder the woman said she was harsh.

  • The disciples had a false understanding of Jesus so he corrected their false understanding by giving them sound teaching, telling them that anyone who wants to be a follower of his must renounce himself and take up his cross and follow him (Mark 8:34). The woman had a false understanding of sin and the Church’s teaching and Sr. Briege corrected her false understanding.

We have to admire the strength and courage of the woman to change her mind once the truth was pointed out to her. She had a decision to make and she acted as a follower of Jesus. We also have many decisions to make. They are not large moral dilemmas like this woman faced but nevertheless we have decisions to make, we have to choose a right way or a wrong way, the easy way or the difficult way. The easy way is often the wrong way as it was for the woman and the right way is often the difficult path to follow. Let us pray that we will always choose the right way in whatever decision we have to make. Let us pray that when necessary we will be able to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. Let us never be afraid to lose our life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel. When we do we save our life. In our second reading today James said that if good works do not go with our faith it is dead (James 2:17). May we always put good works with our faith so that our faith will not be dead.

The disciples did not really know Jesus despite the fact that they had been his followers now for a long time. They did not understand that Jesus would have to suffer and die to save us. The woman and her husband had been going to Mass but it did not interfere in their lives. What about Jesus and you? Do you take Jesus with you from here into the rest of the week? If you allow Jesus into all of your life and all of your week you will save yourself from making bad decisions. When you allow Jesus into all of your life and all of your week you will see the value in renouncing yourself, taking up your cross and following him. You will understand why anyone who loses his life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel will save it. It still may not be easy but you will see the difference between evil and good, between right and wrong, between saying, “God understands” and what is in fact sinful.

Notice that the woman said she and her husband had rationalized the sin away saying, “God understands.” We can all rationalize sin away by saying, “God understands.” But sin is sin and never brings happiness, only unhappiness. As we think about all of this we are left with one big question. What is the sin that we are rationalizing away? What is our blind spot? I think that deep down we really know when we rationalize sin away but perhaps we do not want to face renouncing ourselves for the sake of Jesus. We can ask the Lord to show us where we are blind to sin.  As the response to our Psalm today said, let us walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living (Ps 116:9 NAB). Let us take up our cross every day after Jesus. Losing our life for Jesus and the sake of the Gospel is the way to save our life.

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday Year B

Do we live the Faith we Profess or run from the Cross? 2006

Peter professed his faith by how he lived and died, we do likewise 2012

Related Homilies: The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering according to Pope John Paul II 2008

Carrying Our Cross after Jesus - stages of healing and acceptance

Growing through Trials like Peter

Jesus on the Cross Teaching us how to respond to Unjust Suffering 2015

stories about our cross