CROWN WITHOUT CROSS: GOD FORBID!| 24th Sunday|Ordinary Time|Year B

It is the devil's suggestion to make you believe there's crown without a cross. During a counselling session a lady revealed how she had severally attempted to leave her marriage because her husband does not appreciate her but abuses her. While she spoke, the Spirit revealed to me that she had attempted suicide severally, so I asked her, and she affirmed with a big surprise how I knew. Then I said to her: 'the suggestion to commit suicide comes to you like voice near your ears, horrific and powerful'. And she affirmed again. And finally I said to her: 'it is the devil- the deceiver, he makes you believe there's Christian marriage without challenges- that all should be rosy. But it's a big lie!'

When Jesus spoke about the cross we must bear to follow him, he wasn't talking about a huge chunk of wood on a chain or cord for a necklace. Neither does he mean a cross on the wall of a sanctuary, nor does he mean being literally nailed to a cross as some misguided persons think. If you wish to know what He meant, read slowly...

cf Mark 8:27-35

...And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’ He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

POINTS FOR REFLECTION

1. Bearing the Cross of Jesus is a CHOICE TO DENY SELF. Our cross is NOT one God imposes on us, but it is required we bear one freely and ungrudgingly if we choose to follow him. And so there's a difference between a 'thorn in the flesh' and 'the cross of Jesus'. A 'thorn' is something placed on us by God for a higher (spiritual) good. Like 'the thorn in the flesh' of St Paul which God permitted to happen to him in order to keep him humble since he had been granted a glimpse of heaven. Because Paul  didn’t choose it, but begged to be released from it:
"There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'"(2Cor 7:2-9)

But the cross is something we choose freely or take upon ourselves for our Spiritual benefit. 

2. Bearing a cross is not back ache, arthritis, cancer, pain or sickness. Those are thorns in the flesh to which all are subject. But crosses are self denials for the sake of Jesus. For instance, Zacchaeus who when converted denied himself and gave away half of his goods and refunded four times what he had swindled from others. The many Martyrs who for the sake of Christ, accepted ridicules and persecutions, were chained and imprisoned, were stoned, burnt and put to death by the sword, etc, all for the sake of Christ. Thus, bearing a cross is being willing to suffer in order to attain a greater good!

2. But no suffering for the sake of Christ is in vain, whether now or in the life after. For every cross taken up willingly is an act of discipleship and a true expression of faith in Jesus, because faith without good works is dead (Jas 2:17). Remember, after the cross, a Crown of Glory awaits you like the proverbial light after the tunnel. God shall reward every cross you bear patiently. He does that to vindicate you, to glorify His Name, and shame your persecutors and accusers, so that you can boldly exclaim like Isaiah the prophet: 

"For my part, I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced…I know I will not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up." (Isa 50:5-9)

TASK: Take up a 'special cross' today as an expression of your discipleship and sign of your faith: it could be something done for peace to reign in your family, marriage, working place, etc. It could be joys or comforts you deny yourself to put smiles on others' face. It could even be your silence and humility when others are inciting you to talk or provoking you to anger! 

Pray now with the Word of God: from the depths of your heart repeat the words of Jesus 7 times: 

Get behind me Satan! (mention whatever evil or problem that plagues you in place of satan)

Because the Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. I know I will not be put to shame, in Jesus name. Amen

All those who wish or wait for my downfall will be shamed and disgraced as they see me rise, in Jesus name. Amen.

Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! Let all those who accuse me physically and spiritually be silenced forever, for the Lord God is my vindicator, who will condemn me?

May my accusers (mention name(s) of that which accuses you) be eaten up by worms and wear out like garment, in Jesus name. Amen.

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