There is the story of the man who wakes up from an operation in hospital to be greeted by the doctor, who says to him, “I have some good news and bad news for you.”
The man says, “Give me the bad news first.”
The doctor replies, “We had to remove both your feet!”
Distraught the man begins to weep and after a few minutes asks, “And what was the good news?”
To which the doctor replies, “The man in the next bed wants to buy your slippers.”
(Sorry! I can hear you cringing from here….but bear with me!)
We’ve all told or heard those jokes or played the game “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
Do you want the good news or the bad news? It is exactly what our faith is!
The Good News is that Jesus has liberated us from sin and shown us the way to life eternal.
The bad news is he had to suffer and die to do that!
This is the paradox of Christianty. The reason we call the day of Christ’s suffering and brutal death – “Good Friday”
It’s what is known as the “Folly of the Cross”
This comes from St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians…
“The language of the cross is folly for those not on the way to salvation, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The readings today ask us to reflect on the “Folly of the Cross” with the examples of Jeremiah and Peter, and wisdom from Paul, himself.
Jeremiah shares his experience of the cross.
Seduced by the Lord and, putting his whole life at the service of God, the prophet has become a laughing stock, the butt of everyone’s jokes.
But the fire in his heart is too strong, even amid his own personal crisis and suffering, he has to carry the cross of being the prophetic voice.
The theme continues as Paul urges the faithful to “offer your living bodies as a holy sacrifice pleasing to God.” This is the worship pleasing to God, in taking up the cross and dying to self.
Here Jesus announces his passion to the disciples and tells them that their path is the same.
Peter, who was the hero in last week’s Gospel professing Jesus as the messiah and Son of God, doesn’t get it.
“Get behind me Satan, this is not the way of God and if anyone wants to follow me they must renounce themselves and take up the cross and follow me.”
These are the two ways of true Christianity – renouncing self and taking up the cross.
But what does that mean?
Renouncing is dying to self, to self interest, selfishness and self dependency.
Taking the cross is not just about accepting life’s difficulties but it’s an expression of complete and total love for the other, which in its most radical form, is the complete gift of self… even to death.
Jesus then explains the folly of the cross in a more logical way.
- Whoever gives their life, will gain life eternal.
- This life is merely transitory.
- The eternal reward should be all the concerns us.
In today’s world where “it’s dog eat dog, be all that you can be, look after number 1…” Jesus’ logic is alien to the world but we are called to renounce that attitude, that mind set, that ideology and practice.
The COVID 19 pandemic has shown the world up for the selfishness that reigns, for the greed that abounds, for the inequalites, with which each, day get worse.
At a time when we are called to be in solidarity with those worse off… we batter down the hatches. We circle the wagons. During this pandemic…
- The Government abolishes the Department of International Development and reduces its aid to the developing world.
- 36,000 people’s universal credit has been reduced.
- Landlords, hoteliers, councils can now put the homeless back on the streets.
- Companies prefer to make redundancies rather than reduce profits.
- WHO admits that the pandemic reveals systematic injustice and calls us to act.
- The USA withdraws funds from the WHO during the biggest crisis in our lifetime
And we could go on!
“Renounce ourselves and take up our cross” demands that we act differently, that as Christians we say to the world “You’ve got it wrong! There is another way” And it’s the way of love, of solidarity, of compassion.
And the alternative model of Jesus is in renouncing our own selfish ways our comfortable ways and look at the other with love, not disdain or fear.
This is the folly of the Cross!
- So what am I called to renounce in my life ? The sacrifices I need to make?
- What are those things that make me selfish instead of selfless?
- What are the crosses that I need to embrace to make me love more?
- Who am I called to love more? And how can I do that?
- What am I asked to do to follow Jesus more faithfully?
The Pandemic can be the cross which brings us hope and a better, more just life.
We can stand beating our breasts feeling sorry for ourselves at the foot of the cross or we can run with hope, faith and love to joy of the empty tomb!
The choice is ours!
Let’s pray that we choose to run from the scandal of the cross to the glory of the tomb… and you don’t need slippers for that!