November 8, 2023 –
Wednesday of the Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The Catholic approach to following Jesus is not “either/or”, but “both/and”. Throughout the course of the Church’s two thousand year history, various heretical groups have tried to split apart aspects of the Catholic Faith that God means to be wedded to each other. For example, regarding the person of Jesus Christ, some heretics have falsely taught that Jesus is only a human being, and not divine. In turn, other heretics have falsely taught that Jesus is only divine, and not human. There are serious consequences to believing in either of these falsehoods. By contrast, salvation is only possible if Jesus Christ is both fully divine and fully human.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus speaks to an area of the Christian life that calls for another “both/and”: faith and good works. There are some who claim that faith in what Jesus accomplished two thousand years ago on Calvary is enough to reach Heaven. Jesus insists, however, that both faith and good works are needed. Not only must a Christian have faith in Christ’s saving work on Calvary. One must also conform the whole of one’s life – heart, mind, soul, and strength – to what Christ accomplished on Good Friday. This is what He refers to when He insists: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
The phrase “his own cross” distinguishes that the disciple is an individual with free will: he may choose to carry his own cross, or not to carry his own cross. Nonetheless, when the disciple – with faith in the power of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection – carries “his own cross”, he is not merely following Jesus at a distance. Carrying one’s own cross is not only a moral act. For the Christian, carrying one’s own cross after Jesus is one of the chief means of entering into Jesus’ saving sacrifice on Calvary.