First Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:6-11, 16, 17
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 59:2, 10, 17-18
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God, protect me from those who rise up against me, O my Strength, I will sing praises to thee; for thou, O God, art my fortress. But I will sing of thy might; I will sing aloud of thy steadfast love in the morning. For thou hast been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to thee, for thou, O God, art my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.
Gospel: Matthew 16:24-27
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.
One morning at my small group we were discussing the stumbling blocks we often put in our own way as we pursue Christ. One of my friends shared with us, “I just want to be comfortable and I make a lot of decisions in my life based on that: Will this make me comfy?”
I was impressed with her self-knowledge and I began to think about myself in that same context. How many choices do I make throughout the day not because I’m doing what is right or good but because it will end in my comfort? Turns out, a lot of the things I do are done for the very same reason as my friend.
In the past, when I read or heard Saint Paul’s words to the Corinthians I was always moved by the faithfulness and love of God. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We are not crushed; we will not despair; we are not forsaken; we will not be destroyed.
When I read his words today, though, all I saw was the other half of it. “We are afflicted in every way, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.” Shoot, Paul, that’s not the warm fuzzy I was wanting right now.
The Truth, though, is that when we follow Christ we follow Christ. He picked up His cross and told us to do the same, so we do. There is no warm fuzzy in the cross. Don’t get me wrong, it is love—true, passionate, life-giving love—but it is not gentle, easy, or about me being happy and fulfilled.
I can seek all the pleasures in the world to make me comfortable and content but Jesus has asked me, “What do you gain when you have the whole world but not your soul?” The answer: I have nothing; I have Hell.
The important thing to remember, though, is that while we will suffer and struggle we are not crushed; we will not despair; we are not forsaken; we will not be destroyed. Our Almighty God is faithful and generous, and even in the midst of our discomfort He will provide for us.
Are you choosing comfort as a way to ignore a cross Christ is asking you to carry?
Bonnie Engstrom is a writer, baker, speaker and homemaker. She lives with her husband and five children in central Illinois. You can find out more about her here.