Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”
Jesus was always foretelling of His impending death and subsequent resurrection. He did it throughout His Earthly ministry. But, the one He uses in this week’s Gospel reading is incredibly obvious. He uses the metaphor of one not taking-up their cross to follow Him being unworthy of Him. In Jesus’ days, the cross was a symbol of death. It had nothing to do with life at all. Under Roman rule at this time in history, it is estimated that there were 30,000+ crucifixions per year. It was common for travelers to enter Jerusalem and other Roman-ruled cities via roads littered with people nailed to crosses. The sight must have been horrifying to anyone who saw them. And, under Roman rule, that was the point. They ruled by fear and subjection. As God always does, He took a symbol of death and the evil behind it and turned it on its ear for Good. The same cross never changed in its architecture – it Miraculously changed in its Meaning. Jesus was clearly inviting everyone to “die” to the whims and demands of this world and just openly-serve as many as possible. To serve others as He would go on to serve all of mankind by dying on the cross, rising from the dead, and permanently opening the gates of Heaven. So, whatever crosses we are to bear, we are to draw strength from the One Who bore the heaviest cross and burden of all – Jesus. And, as His Father welcomed Him Home through His Faithful service, our Father, through Jesus, will welcome all of us Home.