Homily for Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time
In our first reading this morning, Nahum prophesies the fall of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, one of the most ruthless empires in the history of humanity. They would often behead many of the people in the cities they conquered and, whoever was left, would suffer as their slaves. That’s exactly what happened to the Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah. So we can see why Nahum had such a joyful outlook at the destruction of the Assyrian capital.
Nahum encouraged the people of Judah to remember that God would enact His justice in the proper time. He prophesied that God would take revenge on Assyria. Despite all that the people of Judah were going through, God hadn’t forgotten them. Nahum called them to persevere in their faith and stay focused on following the commands of the Lord. God would restore the remnant of Judah to their former glory, He would bring them back to their land, He would never abandon His people. Nahum’s words are meant to inspire the people of Judah in their struggle to remain faithful amid the temptations present all around them. That’s a similar message that we hear about in our Gospel.
Jesus says: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” That’s a hard command to live by. It’s sometimes really challenging to pick up those crosses. We all have them. We all struggle to carry them, whatever they might look like: dealing with a health issue; walking with a child suffering from mental illness or struggling through our own mental health challenges; praying for a child who is far from the faith; trying desperately to overcome a habitual sin or an addiction to drugs, alcohol, pornography; caring for an aging or sick parent; struggling to financially support a family because of employment issues…those are all crosses that so many of us are carrying.
Jesus is encouraging us to persevere. He is telling us to take up the cross that we have been given, to unite ourselves to Him, to carry that cross willingly, and to have the faith to trust that He is with us as we do that.
Jesus never said that being His disciple would be easy. He never said that it would be a walk in the park. On the contrary…being a Christian is not for the faint of heart. There are so many temptations and voices telling us that it’s okay for us to give in to the pleasures of the world, to drop our crosses, and do what makes us happy. That’s not what Jesus told us. He said to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him. This morning, may we recommit ourselves to that; may we ask the Lord for help in carrying our crosses and for faith to know that He is carrying them with us. He walks alongside us because He walked that road first. We’re not alone. May we always look to Him and persevere in the way of discipleship.