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Today’s readings challenge us: True Christian discipleship demands total commitment to the will of God and putting God first in our lives. It is easy to follow Jesus when everything is going great! Jesus said to the disciples, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” How many were following Jesus at the end? When Jesus was hanging on the cross, how many were at the foot of the cross? Only a handful of people were at the foot of the cross.

Today’s gospel challenges us and reminds us to count the cost of discipleship and following Jesus, because the cost is high: true discipleship demands total “renunciation” both earthly possessions and possessions of the heart. This means to renounce the possessions that we have too much attachment to in our lives and to give priority to God and be willing to share our blessings with our brothers and sisters.

At the conclusion of Jesus’s teaching, Jesus said: “Take up your cross and follow me.” For the large crowd who followed Jesus, the cross meant utter agony, nakedness, and humiliation. When we think in the religious sense about the cross, it is very precious. We keep crosses on the walls of our special rooms and we experience the real presence and image of Christ on the cross. “Take up your cross and follow me:” Jesus is saying, “Crucify your own egos, selfishness, and pride; otherwise, you cannot be my disciples.” What are the crosses and what are the sufferings? At present, we are experiencing the COVID crisis and other life challenges but we hope and believe that there is sunshine after the heavy rain and thunderstorms in our lives. Nothing ever stays the same. Every day brings with new challenges and new blessings. The cross does bring death, but the cross also brings resurrection! There is joy on the other side of that cross!

Let me share with you a story: A young man went to God and told that his cross was too heavy for him. God took him into a room full of crosses of all different sizes and weights. God told the young man to pick the cross that was just right for him. The young man looked around and finally picked that cross he felt was right for him, not too heavy and not too light. When he came out of the room, God asked him, “Are you sure that was the right cross for you?” And the young man responded, “Yes!” Then God told him, “That was the same exact cross you had earlier!”

The moral of the story is that: Life is not a bed of roses but a path of thorns. God gives us crosses and burdens and the same God gives us shoulders to bear them! God gives us the cross He knows we can handle. These crosses are designed just for us and perfect for us. No one can replace them. The crosses that we bear may seem larger than the crosses of others, but remember we do not know other people’s complete stories including the weight and size of their crosses. We are like tea bags. Our strength is revealed only when we get into hot water! Let us listen to the words of St. Mother Teresa, “Crosses and the sufferings are nothing by themselves. Our sufferings and crosses share in the passion of Christ as a wonderful gift, the most beautiful gift, a token of Love.”