Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Pete Iorio
September 3, 2022 - 5:00 PM
September 4, 2022 - 8:30 AM, 11:00 AM
Isn’t the fourth commandment, honor your mother and your father? Then why is Jesus telling us to hate them? Jesus is a great teacher and he is getting his students attention by saying this provocative statement. It’s hard to understand. We must take this verse in the context of the chapter. After the statement that is hard to understand, he clarifies it with a metaphor.
Following the statement that we must “hate” our father and mother, Jesus relates a metaphor about a man who builds a house without first counting the cost. The man finds that he cannot follow through with what he set out to do. He leaves the house unfinished because he cannot pay what is required. Jesus’ illustration helps explain his statement —namely, we must count the cost of being his disciple.
The second statement that Jesus taught was that we must take up our cross if we want to be his disciple. I’d like to share a little bit about what the world may call the folly of the cross and what saints in our tradition call the wisdom of the Cross. I was taught that all true Christian spirituality leads to the Cross.
First, it means accepting that suffering is a part of our lives. Accepting our cross means that, at some point, we have to make peace with the fact that frustration, disappointment, pain, misfortune, illness, unfairness, sadness, loss, and death are a part of our lives and they must ultimately be accepted … without bitterness. A phrase that I learned several years ago sticks with me: your suffering will make you bitter or your suffering will make you better. And we do have a choice about that. It’s all in our attitude.
This also includes how we relate to other people when we suffer. We can share our pain with others, but there is a healthy way to do it and an unhealthy way to do it. The healthy way to share our pain leaves the other person free. The unhealthy kind of sharing our pain can subtly make the other person unhappy because we want them to feel our pain too. There’s a difference between healthily groaning under the weight of our pain and unhealthily whining in self-pity and bitterness under that weight. Jesus groaned under the weight of his cross, but no self-pity, whining, or bitterness issued forth from his lips or his beaten body.
This next nugget of wisdom from the cross is one that I struggle with most. It has to do with patience. There is no immediate gratification when it comes to taking up our crosses. It means that we must wait for a resurrection. So much of life and discipleship is about waiting, waiting in frustration, inside injustice, inside pain, in longing, battling bitterness, as we wait for something or someone to come and change our situation. Jesus’ invitation to us to follow him implies waiting patiently, accepting to live inside our unfinished story.
We know that God’s timing is not our timing. God’s ending of the story is often not our desired ending. Carrying our cross means accepting that God’s gift to us will not always be what we expect. A Resurrection does not come when we expect it, and it rarely fits our idea of how a resurrection should happen. To carry our cross is to be open to surprise.
Finally, taking up our cross means living in a faith that believes that nothing is impossible for God. This means accepting that God is greater than the human imagination. Indeed, whenever we despair that God cannot offer us a way out of our pain into some kind of newness, it’s precisely because we have reduced God down to the size of our own limited imagination. It’s only possible to accept our cross, to live in trust, and to not grow bitter inside pain if we believe in possibilities beyond what we can imagine, namely, if we believe in the Resurrection. This is practicing the virtue of hope.
Living the Wisdom of the Cross is desiring to follow after Jesus as his disciple.