Sunday, September 13, 2009  Today we ask the Lord to help us bear our crosses.

Homily, Sunday, September 13, 2009

Fr. Ed Oen, C.PP.S.

Pope Paul VI was Pope in 1963 at the start of the Second Vatican Council. The Council closed in 1965. When Pope Paul began to implement some of the reforms, he was criticized from all sides because of the changes. Some cardinals even called for his resignation. But he replied, “I cannot walk away from the Cross.” Pope Paul understood the words of Jesus in today’s gospel: “Those who come after me must deny himself and take up this cross and follow me.”

All of us have crosses. They come in the form of death of a loved one, sickness and inability to work, loss of jobs, persecution, misunderstandings, failure in relationships.  If we could write the script of our own lives, we’d probably leave out the suffering. But that would be a mistake; there is good that comes from suffering. 

First of all, suffering helps us turn to God. During the Second World War, churches were packed. People prayed for an end to that war. There was much suffering due to loss of lives. During World War II, millions of people were put to death by the Nazis. One young woman wrote a prayer in her diary in which she described her thoughts on suffering. The writing was found on a scrap of paper in a rancid dormitory at the liberation of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany at the end of World War II.

The prayer read like this:

"Lord, remember not only the men of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember rather the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering: our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, and the greatness of heart that has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have bourne be their forgiveness."

There was a young woman who took all the suffering and she saw some good that could come out of it: comradeship, loyalty, humility, courage, generosity, greatness of heart.

A Polish Catholic priest in a concentration camp who gives us an example of suffering was Father Maximilian Kolbe. He was a prisoner but he went about the camp, preaching to trust in God. One day, a prisoner escaped from the camp. The Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die began to cry, “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!” Father Kolbe stepped forward and asked to take that man’s place and his request was granted. And the 10 were led off to the underground bunker where they would starve to death. After ten days with no food or water, seven had died. Father Kolbe was the last survivor. So, they came in and gave him a shot of carbolic acid and killed him. So you see the suffering that came out made someone do a heroic thing for another.

When we complain about our crosses of suffering, we don’t always see the crosses that other people carry. We don’t see the invisible hurts that go on inside of people. Many people carry many crosses; they worry about all kinds of things going on in their lives. We ask young people to get off of drugs, alcohol, and pornography. Those young people who are willing to do that will sometimes be persecuted; they will shouted at; they will be made fun of.  Jesus may ask married couples to deal with their unsolvable problems by going to a counselor. Older people may be dealing with health issues, a stroke, heart attack, or death of a child. Sometimes people think that suffering is not good. St. Paul says that suffering is our sanctification.

 Today, we ask the Lord to help us bear our crosses.


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