If you’re like me, you love bacon. Growing up I learned that there were two types of bacon in our home, good bacon and bad bacon. “Good bacon” was the bacon you’d smell frying on a Sunday morning. That delicious aroma meant that Dad was cooking one of his famous breakfasts of bacon, eggs, homemade biscuits and gravy, and all sorts of delicacies assured to give you heartburn when you attended Mass later in the day. That was “good bacon.”
“Bad bacon” was the bacon you smelled frying on a Sunday afternoon. That usually meant that Mom was busy making one her notorious meals, liver and onions. Mom would fry some bacon, then use the bacon grease to grill onions and calves liver. When we’d sit down for dinner Mom had one rule that was strictly enforced: You had to eat all of your liver and onions before you could think about eating any bacon. It was torture for an underdeveloped palat and none of us six kids were that partial to fried organ meat! Just to make things interesting, Mom would often serve other unpopular dishes such as stewed tomatoes and lima beans and would add them to the must-eat-before-getting-bacon list. It was torture and Mom would simply tell us to “offer it up!”
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells his disciples:
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
The saying “take up your cross” reminds me of the same saying my Mom would quote, “offer it up.” Both sayings suggest that we must suffer as Christians to achieve what God wants of us. Does that mean that God only wants us to suffer in faith? I don’t think so.
In Jesus’ time, his disciples would understand that the phrase “take up your cross” meant pain and suffering – it meant crucifixion. And in those days a person who was to be crucified was forced to carrying his own cross to the place where he would be beaten, humiliated and executed. Jesus was not telling us that all of his disciples (including us) would suffer crucifixion. And, he was not saying that we would have to suffer each day for His sake. What Jesus was telling his disciples was, to be a true Christian, you have to be willing to put Christ first in your life.
Luke’s Gospel (where today’s reading comes from) is a little different than Mark’s Gospel. Luke includes the word “daily” when talking about taking up your cross. Luke reminds us that we are not called to be Christians only when we endure suffering, but in every way we live our lives.
The Cross is a powerful reminder of our call to live as Christians every day of our lives. As Catholics, we rely on the symbol of the Cross to remind us of what Christ did for us (suffered, died and rose to open the gates of heaven), and what he is asking we do for him (live the model of love and forgiveness he showed us).
I invite you – and encourage you – to give this some thought this week:
- When and how do I see Christ working in my life? Am I living the life of a Christian only in my “liver-and-onions” times when life is hard and I need God, or am I living a life of love and forgiveness every day?
- Am I willing to deny my personal desires for a higher power (my God, my family, my friends)?
- Am I living a life worthy of the name “Christian”?
As another old saying goes: “If someone were to accuse you of being a Christian, would they have enough evidence to convict you?”
Jesus tells us:
“If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
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