It is precisely in his embracing of the “suffering ones” that I believe Jesus’ identity shines forth. In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the disciples “But who do you say that I am?”. And Peter, correctly, responds, “You are the Christ!”, to which Jesus responds by telling them to keep it to themselves and not tell anyone who he really is.
Jesus then goes on to tell them that even though he is the Messiah, he is going to suffer greatly, be rejected by the religious leaders and ultimately be killed! He tells them that anyone who wishes to follow him must deny themselves and pick up their cross and follow him and whoever loses their life for him and for the sake of the Gospel will save their life!
Jesus is letting them all know that they too are going to be beat- en, stripped and spit upon just like he will be as he will make his way to Golgotha.
Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and to the cross was a journey of em- bracing all of those who suffer under the weight of their crosses -- crosses placed upon them by human traffickers, by unjust immigration policies. An embracing of those who bear the weight of the crosses of systemic racism, bigotry and misogyny and social marginalization. On his journey to the cross Jesus aligned himself with all the victims of abuse by clergy, by church leaders, and anyone abused physically, sexually or emotionally. He is the Son of the God, the one Isaiah spoke of who walked with the weak and vulnerable. Just as he embraced those whom others recoiled from or found unworthy or “out of place”...as his followers we are called to embrace them and welcome them.
We are called to reach out to the victims of abuse in our church and to call out and demand that their voices be heard. In the midst of a nation so divided we are called to be voices of unity to those who are marginalized and threatened because of the color of their skin or their nationality or their gender or orientation.
We are called to be voices of welcome to all those who are being turned away and chased down and deported. We are called to be voices of welcome to the thousands of Afghan refugees who are seeking a new life in our country.
On this 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we are called to carry the cross of all of those who lost their lives in the attacks and in the ensuing wars and the families and loved ones they left behind, whose lives are forever scared and changed.
All the afore mentioned people are the crucified whose crosses, like Simon of Cyrene, we may help to carry, even if for just a few steps on their long journey. And in the carrying of their crosses, we may come to know them just a little better and to see Christ present in them...whose cross might I help carry? Who might I let help carry my cross?