August 5, 2011 - Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

Moses, in the first reading today, tells the Israelites that they have been blessed to be so close to God. They heard the voice of God speaking to them from the fire. God was willing to condescend, to come down and be with, his people. He drove out the nations before them. He gave them a law so that they would know his will.

If Moses was amazed by how close God was to the Israelites, how much more should we be amazed by the Lord’s invitation today! Jesus invites us to be as close to him as possible: he invites us to suffer and die with him. What else could be the meaning of these words: “Take up your cross [your] cross and follow me”?

How beautifully our Lord entices us today. He begins with the invitation, “Whoever wishes to come after me”. What a beautiful invitation! It is so casual, almost offhand: “Whoever wishes.” He does not tell us what we ought to do or must do; he does not command us with harsh words. He is simply relating the logical consequences. If someone happens to want to follow him, they will have to do what he did. No one can follow another person without going where they went. That is the meaning of “follow”. Where did Jesus go? He went to the Cross.

We have this possibility of being so close to God. Why would we not take advantage of the opportunity? Fear, mostly. We are afraid of suffering and death; we are afraid of giving up what makes us happy in this world. As the old saying says, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Of course, it is more like a flock of birds in the bush, millions of birds in the bush, but still, a bird in the hand is something definite.

Then we look at this bird in our hands and we realize that it is a sickly, ugly thing. The worldly happiness that we would have to give up is not really making us so happy after all. Nothing can make us as happy as God. If suffering and death could make us happy, there is nothing to be afraid of. To suffer with Jesus, to die with Jesus, who suffered and died for us, to be united to Jesus by these unbreakable bonds, this is the only true happiness.