“Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.”

Today’s gospel reading records Jesus’ final words to His apostles before sending them out on their mission (Mt 10:34-11:1).  Jesus begins by saying He has come to set family members against each other.  He adds that He must be loved more than any family member and that his followers must suffer with Him and be willing to die for Him.  Finally, Jesus tells of the blessings that will be bestowed on those who receive His disciples will receive much more as a reward.  On that note Jesus leaves to preach and teach.  His words were challenging to His apostles and they have challenged countless millions since that time.  In recent years in particular the notion of “health and wealth gospel” has been popular; earthly prosperity is tied to following Jesus faithfully.  Related to this is the idea that Jesus suffered for us so we don’t have to suffer; if we do have hardships it is due to a lack of faith.  Neither of these perspectives corresponds to Jesus’ words at top and the ones that follow them in the passage.  Jesus did not take away our suffering and death in this world but rather sanctified both; neither has the last word.  Imitating Christ, a worthy aim, includes the good and the bad.  When sadness or suffering come we can certainly ask the Lord to take them from us (cf. 2 Cor 12:8), but if He doesn’t, we have an opportunity to offer these to Christ for our good and the good of the entire Church (Col 1:24).  If we are unwilling to do this, the eternal consequences are likely to be dire.

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