In the Gospel today, we are brought into a conversation which Jesus is having with His Apostles. They are away from the crowds, and Jesus opens up a conversation about relationships – our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. In the conversation, there is a series of “ one liners” that go right to the heart of the matter.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” ”Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of Me.” “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

Each one of these statements invites us to look – at our priorities, our attitudes and our values in the light of the Cross. When Jesus invites a person to follow Him, He doesn’t promise them a carefree life. He invites them to pick up their Cross and follow Him to Calvary.

In the Gospel today, Jesus asks us to let Him be the highest priority in our lives. This means that we put Him above everything, and everyone in our lives – including ourselves. Jesus says to us: “Please care for Me more than anything else in your life. Please give Me top priority over everything else in your life.”

This is a difficult request! It means that we do not merely accept Jesus as our personal Savior and then go on our merry way: it means more than that. It means that Jesus Christ and His Cross takes first place in our lives. Jesus is calling us to the deepest level of union with His Father and total obedience to His will in our lives. He says: “He who loves father or mother; son or daughter more then Me is not worthy of Me!”

In the early Church, these words of Jesus had to be applied on a regular basis. Many of the early Christians came from Jewish homes. When they became converts to Christianity, they were rejected by their families and reported to the Roman government who would persecute and ultimately kill them. The image of the Cross was very graphic for the people of the early Church.

Many saw Jesus carry His Cross to Calvary. Many saw their family members and fellow Christians carry the cross to their own death. For the early Christians, the cross was not a minor inconvenience or some nagging frustration of life – it was real suffering and death.

Today, following Jesus does not usually mean death (at least in the Unites States), but in some cases, it means suffering. Father Gardner – a priest of our Diocese (who has since died) – is a good example of this kind of treatment. His family was so anti-Catholic, that when he converted to the Faith, he was disowned by his family.

Our former Bishop Albert Ottenweller was arrested and put in jail for a week because he protested against abortion in front of an abortion clinic in Youngstown. Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was murdered by the Sandinesta government because he spoke out against atrocities against the poor in his country.

In each of these cases, there was a price to be paid for following Jesus – and they were all willing to pay it. Being a disciple of Jesus means paying a price: – it means carrying the Cross. Jesus said: “He who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.” The Cross that Jesus calls us to is not the little gold crucifix we wear around our neck; but rather THE CROSS: the cross of rejection, the cross of hatred, the cross of misunderstanding, the cross of obedience: Jesus invites us to set aside our own will and accept the will of the Father as Jesus did in the agony of Gethsemane: “Not my will but Yours be done.”

Jesus warns that following Him is not the easy road to follow. He warned: “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for Me will find it.” None of us will ever find a perfect life or total happiness in this world: what we find is the Cross; and we have the option to either accept ir or run from it!.

The Cross is the suffering we bear because of our beliefs when we take a stand on the moral issues of our culture. The Cross is what we are willing to sacrifice for what we believe God wants us to do. The Cross is the hardship or tragedy that strike us and we are tempted to turn away from Jesus and follow Him no longer.

The Cross is the rejection we feel when we are misunderstood. The Cross is the discovery that you or a loved one has cancer or some other terminal illness. The Cross is a spouse walking out on you and your children. The Cross is a drunk – driver killing someone you know and love.

If we are trying to live our faith, we eventually face the Cross. There are times in our lives when the full impact of the Gospel hits home with a mighty force.

Following Jesus is not easy – there is always a price – the price of the Cross. We can run from it or embrace it; but the Cross is our hope because through it, there is life.