(NOTE: This transcription has been automatically generated through an AI program. Consequently, this transcript may not match everything you hear in the podcast episode, and it may contain errors such as spelling, grammar, word choice, etc., due to the limitations of current AI technology.)

Hey everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of Midnight Carmelite. This week’s episode is going to be about the cross. I was thinking about it this week, more and more about the cross. We had Trinity Sunday this past week and you know, it’s dealing with the nature of God three Persons in one God, but then I thought about how the cross is really how you know that God, and how we become like that God through participation by closer union with Him. So what I wanted to do first is I wanted to discuss a one just one passage of the cross and scripture, give its context where it occurs, and kind of what I think is going on here and offer that to you.

And then also I want to tie it to Carmel because I think that we all have stressful lives with things going on that are very hard, but we’re also always called to carry our cross. And sometimes in light of circumstances we tend to drop our cross or to avoid our cross or to say it’s one thing when it’s actually we know deep down it’s something else. So with all this in mind, let’s get started here. The passage about the cross I’m going to discuss is actually the passage from Luke 9.

So for those who haven’t read it in a while or maybe don’t know, you have the feeding of the 5000 who had followed Jesus. They were in this wasteland and the apostles were saying, look, you send these people back to where they came from, so they get provisions and Jesus said, well, give them food. And they also said, look, we can’t give them food. There’s so many of them; all we have is five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes and then it moves to Peter, confessing that Jesus is the Christ And you know, Bishop Sheen has a very interesting take on this.

What he essentially says is you see in the confession of Christ, the notions of democracy, aristocracy, and then Peter as Pope, so the Vicar of Christ, being the one that is a monarch, so to speak. And by the way, this is not advocating for certain forms of government, it’s merely dealing with the government of the Church and how that relates to the apostolic succession. Furthermore, what you’ll notice too is as we start talking about this, when Jesus asks, who do the crowds say that I am?

The answer, the Apostles gives the same answer that Herod earlier in this chapter is getting from people thinking that John the Baptist had returned and the people, the democracy, the majority, can’t decide who Jesus is, they say John the Baptist, others say he’s Elijah and others that he’s one of the ancient prophets having arisen. And the the interesting thing is the Apostles tell Jesus the exact same thing that Scripture says earlier that Herod had heard from people. So it shows that majorities don’t know the truth absolutely. Because you know as Bishop Sheen said, “right is right, if nobody is right and wrong is wrong, if everybody’s wrong,” you know that also plays in this passage, Jesus asks them who do the crowds say that he is.

And they answered saying John the Baptist, the others also said Elijah, others now say that he’s one of the ancient prophets having arisen. And then Jesus said, well who do you all pronounce me to be? And then it says, and Peter answered, saying the Christ of God. So in this moment the Vicar of Christ answers is the only one who can give the answer to who Jesus really is. And after that Jesus warns them saying don’t tell anyone this. And then he says this, he says it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things and to be cast away or to be rejected after examination by the elders and chief priests and scribes and then killed.

And on the 3rd day he will be raised. Now then Jesus said to all of them, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and let him lift up his cross every day and follow me. For whoever any in any way might save his life utterly destroy it. However, whoever might in any way utterly destroyed his life on account of me will save it.” Okay, so so this is referring to John the same word for lose here.

Ἀγάπη. It’s self gifted the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that all who believing in him shall not be utterly destroyed but shall have eternal life. So the words life here. So ψυχή is obviously a more natural life and ζωή would be more of an eternal life. So what he’s saying, it seems to me in this passage, is that whoever tries to save their own natural life will utterly destroy it without taking up the cross.

But whoever takes up their cross and utterly destroys their life and then he has, the key line here, on account of me. So again, he will save it. So then it continues and says, “So for what benefit a man having acquired the whole order of things for himself, the cosmos now being utterly destroyed or to experience a detriment of some kind. For whoever feel shame about me and my words, him, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he shall come in his glory and of the Father and of the Holy Angels.”

So let’s unpack this here. So what he’s saying here with taking up your Cross is that you’ll utterly destroy your life if you try to save it on your own. But if you utterly destroy your life for his sake, you’re going to save your life. And that means taking up your cross daily. And it says here every day, literally, and a lot of the times we don’t do that. In fact, I’d argue probably the majority of the time, and the reason is for obvious reasons, taking up the cross is going against what you want, and that’s where you get to let him deny himself.

This is a recurring theme and Carmelite spirituality. This denial of self. You have to remove yourself, your will, to align yourself self with God’s will, because your will doesn’t necessarily mean it’s God’s will. And too often we try and construe the two. Now, there are passages from St. Therese of Lisieux says, “Well, look, God puts desires in me, and if he’s putting desires in me, then he obviously wants me to pursue those things. Yes, that’s true, but the key is that the cross comes in when you have desires to do something and you don’t really put as much effort into it as you should.

You know, you should do more, but you don’t so you put it off, you say wow, I gotta go do this now. So I know I got to do that, I got it, but I gotta go do X, Y and Z. Because you know, A, B, C reasons. So the problem happens is when you do that, when you push that away. So that’s one little tip I want to offer from this passage here. But the other one is I want to comment when he says, so what benefits a man if you gain the whole world for himself?

But now having been utterly destroyed or suffering a detriment. So what does this mean with having gained the whole world for himself and now having been utterly destroyed or suffering this detriment? The idea here is that the created order because the word, here is κόσμος, it’s talking about the creation. So if you gain the whole created order, that’s not God. So you’ve suffered a detriment yourself, what we’re made for God. So that’s kind of what I believe Jesus is getting at here is we’re made for union with him.

And if you’re going again, I say this all the time if you are a regular listener to the podcast, if you’re looking at creation to find God solely in creative things, you’re not finding God because God isn’t in creative things because he’s not created. So you’re, you know, you can use created things in accordance with God’s will, which is what he wants to do, again, taking up your cross, but like I said earlier, a lot of the times we don’t do that. So what can we do with this? I think what we should be doing is looking at Christ as our model.

So in other words, look at your own life, kind of take stock, look at the things you you want to be doing, look at your desires, kind of do an examination of conscience and you look and you say, okay, what do I believe God’s calling me too? And, and you’re really only going to find that through prayer, right? That’s where a conversation with God occurs; a turning of your mind and heart to God. That’s the only place you’re going to find God. So you go into prayer, you focus on, you know, speaking to God and working with him.

And if you do that long enough you’re going to find it, you’re going to find what God’s really calling you to do. And a lot of the times it’ll be something you probably knew was there probably popped it set up a couple times, you probably did a little bit, and you wanted something else on your own, and then you went a little bit, a little bit, and you did a little something, you know, and you’ll see it probably also in other people maybe suggesting it to you, or maybe, you know, good people, right?

You know, obviously, just any random person suggesting things, not necessarily, but, you know, people you trust, maybe your spouse, close friends, spiritual director, who knows, you kind of start seeing it pop up there too, that would be another place. And you kind of start getting in tune to God, you’re starting to tune in, analogously like a radio, you’re starting to pick up on these things, say, okay, I think I’m being called to do X. And as you’re doing that and through your prayer, you’ll see that the thing you’ve been avoiding is a thing you also desire deep down somewhere, because that’s the thing, God’s calling you to, and that’s conforming you to God’s will.

So then the next question is, okay, well how what does this entail of picking up your cross and following him? Well Bishop Sheen once said this, he said you can’t divorce Christ and the Cross, if you divorce Christ from the cross, on the one hand you have Christ without the Cross, which is him as basically some sort of humanitarian aid person. And the Cross without Christ has no love, it’s merely just totalitarian authority, let’s say it’s total oppression, but together you merge the suffering with pure love and then it creates something greater, a greater good and think it’s what we’re all called to because as he said, whoever wants to come my way and the word, you know, come after me really.

And what he’s saying here is that come like behind me. So I’m plowing the path and you’re following if that makes sense. You deny yourself and you take up your cross every day and follow him, that means that every part of us needs to be focused on God, because that means we’re denying our will and focusing on him. You know, Saint Teresa once famously remarked that essentially that our love is the measure of the cross we can bear. So the point is, you don’t want to get into cross comparisons.

Your cross is big enough. You don’t have to worry about other people’s crosses. And if you think about it, since we’re called to follow Christ and deny ourselves, the more we deny ourselves, the more perfectly we’re following him. And as St. John of the Cross says that if we can’t humble ourselves, if we can’t crucify ourselves, if we can’t detach ourselves, then we can’t unite with God because we’re getting in the way; we ourselves are getting in the way of God. So just this week, I would suggest everyone and I’m doing this myself, so I’m not, you know, this isn’t me speaking from a soap box here. Reflect on where your crosses are, try and make sure you know where it is, because only then can we really follow him. So that’s it for this week’s episode. I just wanted to do this little meditation. Hopefully you found it valuable as always.

Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next week.

How to learn more

To learn more about the Carmelite tradition in general, check out Midnight Carmelite episodes through the player below and hit subscribe to stay up to date!

Also, do not forget to subscribe for email updates below. 👇