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Cross encounters

The story is told about a man who kept looking under the dining table as though he were searching for something. When asked what was the matter, he said a piece of the cake he was eating had fallen. When told that he should just let it go as it was just a piece of cake, he replied: “No, it’s not the cake. I’m looking for my dentures in the cake!”

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In today’s Gospel (Mk. 8, 27-35), Jesus reminds us that following Him is not about having our cake and eating it, too, but about suffering and denying ourselves. The cross is very much a part of Christianity. More than the promise of abundance, comfort and security, what draws us to follow the Lord is a personal relationship with Him, and the promise that the cross will lead us to salvation. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

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If we have no real personal relationship with the Lord, our following Him will be shallow, conditional and noncommittal. If we are just looking for the “cake,” we are just after the perks, the benefits and the privileges that go along with our calling. On the other hand, if we are looking for the “dentures,” there is commitment, there is diligence, there is patience and there is sacrifice.

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Tomorrow is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. It reminds us that only and through the cross will we find our real victory and peace. The cross is ugly, and heavy, but it is the only way to a real and meaningful life. Let us not shun the cross. Let us embrace whatever cross comes to us. For the world, this is foolish. So be it. Yes, we are fools. Fools for Christ!

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On Sept. 15 we will mark the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mama Mary went through much sorrow. We can never imagine what and how many swords of sorrow pierced her heart. What made her hold on? It was her deep love for her Son, and her obedience to the Father. She took the road of sacrifice and self-denial joyfully and humbly. Let us pray for the grace to be like Mary in our journey to God’s heart.

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The Lord asks us two questions today. The first is “Who am I to you?” and the second, “Are you willing to take up your cross and follow Me?” These are very important and basic questions that we must raise, and raise again and again—whether we are blessed or bruised, in good and in bad times, in happy and in sad times.

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If there is one person who has a doctorate in crosses and in sorrows, that would be Mama Mary! So, if we have any cross or sorrow, let us go to her and consult her, and be consoled by her. She handled problems, trials, persecutions and deprivations by constantly saying her “fiat” and “magnificat.” She joyfully followed God’s will and constantly glorified God.

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“Itepel mo labat anako.” Just endure. How often our Mama told us that in her Pangasinan language. And Papa always told us in Ilocano: “Agan-agus kayo laeng.” Be patient.

Endurance and patience are important values in our journey through this valley of tears. Without these two virtues we cannot truly follow the Lord.

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Someone observed that it is easy to experience the cross, and purgatory, in the Philippines because of the terrible traffic, the blistering heat, and the natural and political calamities. We are a patient and long-enduring people because of our faith and our culture. But this is not an excuse for the government and its officials not to do their job and provide basic services to our people.

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Please remember that what makes the cross bearable and embraceable is the presence of the Lord Jesus on the cross. May we experience His presence, His power and His love in every cross we bear. The cross, without Jesus, is meaningless and absurd.

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Whenever we encounter any cross, we can say, “Lord, You can make it tough, but please don’t make it impossible. You can make it hard, but please make it bearable.” Listen to Him telling you: “My child, be brave, be not afraid. I love you, and I am near.” And with confidence and trust, we can answer Him: “You can make it tough. You can make it hard—enough for me to know I am loved.”

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Think about this: “There may be those on earth who dress better, eat better, live better… But those who enjoy the peace of the Lord sleep better and wake up happier! Trusting God is the softest pillow on which to rest.”

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, I can embrace my cross because You are there. Amen.

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