It is difficult to reflect on this Gospel passage and not think of our Eleven Martyred Sisters whose feast we celebrate on September 4. Their lives demonstrated to a heroic degree what it means to be a disciple, what it means to carry your cross and be willing to give your life for the sake of the Kingdom. Jesus is aware that carrying a cross is not easy. On the night before His Crucifixion, He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Cross of His impending suffering and death would be taken away, if it be the Father’s will. The Martyred Sisters also understood that our life is not our own. Another saint from the WW2 German Occupation, St. Maximillan Kolbe said, “The Cross is the school of love.” The Cross of Christ was the source of their courage and can be ours as well.
Our crosses may not be so extraordinary as to require us to relinquish our life for our faith. However, illness, death of a loved one, a physical handicap or loss of employment are several ways that we share in the Cross of Christ. Each of these “little crosses” is real and proves our steadfastness and love. Sometimes these crosses are heavy, but God gives us the grace to persevere, and, in this perseverance, we become more precious than fire-tried gold (1 Peter 1:7).
I often think back to a scene in The Chosen when before he and the other disciples go out on mission “Little James” questions Jesus on why James was not healed of his physical disability. Jesus’ response is very moving. He tells “Little James” that the Father trusts him in bearing this infirmity while going out on mission to preach and heal others. Jesus assures “Little James” that his witness will be more profound by having accepted this disability and bearing it. The witness of our faithfulness in embracing our own crosses can be encouraging and supportive to others.
Each person is created to fulfill a specific role within God’s plan, and we have the free will to accept that or not. Most likely, we will not be required to shed our blood for our Faith as the Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek did; however, in our call to discipleship we will be invited to accept the daily crosses that are part of being human. If our spirit and resolve remain strong in bearing these crosses, what disciples we will be!
Sister Marcella Louise Wallowicz, CSFN