Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Adam Royal
September 12, 2021 - 11:00 AM
It is interesting to look at advertisements for charities, especially charities that feed or provide medical treatment to the poor. If it is for an international charity then they use a lot of pictures of the poor. They usually even have you symbolically adopt a particular person and they will send you pictures of the person and a host of biographical details. For local charities they don’t do that. Local charities tend not to use phots of people at all. They just show facts and figures. This happens for a simple reason. When we give money to far away places we will never visit we want a personal touch. We want to see who benefits, because it makes us feel good to help this person and it is safe. When we give locally we don’t want to see a face, a real person, because we just might run into that person. We are afraid to see who is suffering in our own community because we might have to face to face with them, face to face with poverty and suffering. We fear that if we truly know how bad things are then we will suffer with them. As long as the poor are a faceless mass hidden behind numbers and dollar signs, we can continue on with our lives.
When Jesus says take up your cross and follow me he means for us to bear one another’s burdens. He isn’t calling us to senseless suffering for its own sake. No one should be flagellating themselves or sleeping on glass. We are to go out and find those who are already bowed down by the weight of oppressive burdens and help them. We pick up their burdens and we suffer with them. We don’t try to fix them. More often than not we can’t fix other people’s problems. To try invariably results in us saying poorly thought out ideas or even making the situation worse. All we can do, all we should do is sit with them, hear them out, and suffer with them. The call to carry the cross is fundamentally a call to love like God loves. It is a call to renounce our privileges, our concern for ourselves, and to embrace the needs of another. The cross is a call to love another person until it hurts, until our lives have been poured out in sacrifice. Love doesn’t stop when there is pain or difficulty. It continues on until the other knows consolation, until the other knows they are loved.
This is how God loves us. He does not abandon us because we are difficult or even seemingly impossible cases. God continues to love us. No matter how far we stray or how greatly we suffer he stands beside us and endures it with us. This is not a metaphor or a nice story we tell. Through baptism we have become the body of Christ. Whatever anyone of us suffers God also suffers. He does not look away from our pain, or run when it becomes too great. He stays with us and suffers it until the end.
He calls us to do the same for others. We must not stand around absorbed in the endless curiosities and entertainments of this world while people suffer or feel abandoned. As Christians we must love them. We all need to encounter the suffering in our community face to face. We need to sit with them, endure with them, and let them know that they are loved.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for the sake of the gospel will save it.”