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Our Daily Crosses – Large and Small

Our Daily Crosses – Large and Small

August 30, 2020

Chapter Talk – 22nd Sunday – August 30, 2020 – cycle-A

Pope Francis was drawn to this epitaph of Saint Ignatius: “‘Not to be confined to what is greater, but to be concerned with what is smaller: this is divine’” (The Mind of Pope Francis, p.10). Pope Francis commented on this epitaph: “’We could translate it this way: without turning away from that which is higher, we must bend down to pick up what is apparently small in the service of God; or while remaining attentive to what is farther away, we must worry about what is closer’” (p.10). What is this saying to us? There is a tension in this epitaph between the ‘greater’ and the ‘smaller’. Held in the tension of these two opposites is potential life…the larger goal we are to keep our heart’s eye upon, while doing the daily work of the ‘small’, which as St. Ignatius says, is divine.

Turning to this Sunday’s gospel from Matthew, we are given another paradox, which also is holding the tension of two opposites: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:24-25). Taking up our cross each day…this may feel like small stuff…but it is not….First we need some sense of what our ‘cross’ is…we follow Jesus carrying our cross…our cross is not to be left behind…In general terms our ‘cross’ is our life and within each human life there is suffering and struggles…still for God to be incarnated in and through our lives, we carry this our cross with dignity knowing that whatever burden that our cross holds becomes light as we take it up and follow the One who is lifting our cross with us.

A large part of doing the work of God centers around the bearing of our cross…this may sound so small but it opens up to the greater….Jesus’ cross is not separate from the Resurrection. How are we to carry our cross? Picking up our cross connects us with Christ’s cross…picking up our cross elicits God’s love and compassion…picking up our cross enables us to follow with the totality of ourselves…picking up our cross is ‘small work’ that is great in the sight of God….picking up our cross expands the horizon of heart, soul, and mind…picking up our cross places us in the same consciousness of Christ. To take up our cross, to shoulder the struggles that are before us and following Jesus IS to lose our lives. We cannot follow Jesus and leave our cross behind.

Fr. Simeon, in his commentary on this gospel passage, writes that to hang onto to our life, meaning ‘to save our lives’ is an “eloquent definition of egocentrism” because it is “bent above all on not allowing anything to break the self open” (Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word, volume II, p.543). Then he adds: “Yet no enclosed being can generate life” (p.543). I urge each of us to notice what happens interiorly when we make the choice to ‘let go’ of all that encloses us or creates a barrier from having the heart, our heart open more…The result of surrender, of letting go, of renouncing, of denying self is it opens the heart and this new, small heart opening generates more life than before…and we follow carrying our cross but with a lightness in our steps and even joy because somehow we feel at one, with our cross, and with being joined ever more closer to Christ, his Cross and his Way: a way of truth, life and grace.

To return to where I began this talk. As pope, Francis, reflected further on the epitaph of St. Ignatius. He said: “This virtue of the large and the small is magnanimity. Thanks to magnanimity, we can always look at the horizon from the position where we are. That means being able to do the little things of every day with a big heart open to God and others. That means being able to appreciate the small things inside large horizons, those of the kingdom of God” (The Mind of Pope Francis, p.11). The small is not separate from the greater…doing the small with a big heart, this is divine…this is spreading seeds of love that open into the large expanse of Divine and human life. To take up our cross each day and follow the gospel way is prompted by a magnanimous spirit…a spirit that can see in the small the larger horizon of the reign of God being spread through many lives joined together in doing the small everyday work.

And this is why, in Fr. Simeon’s words: “Jesus’ formula for fullness of life” includes “self-denial, the Cross, the throwing away of one’s life like a seed for his sake” (Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word, p.543).

 Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess

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