…take up your cross and follow me. Luke 9:23
At about 3 o’clock each afternoon everyone at St. Mary’s school will hear the voice of Melanie or Sue, the “angels in the office” say over the intercom, “Would the following students please report to the office.” That means there is a message for them; usually a change in after school routine or a note that needs to be delivered to a parent. A hush falls over the building as the names are read and the young ones listen with great anticipation. Earlier this week one of my students was nearly in tears as she proclaimed her great sadness about not yet being chosen as a FOLLOWING student. She announced that she had no idea who she’d follow but she was quite sure she could follow carefully. I giggled and then remembered a student a few years ago who was so excited to be a “following student” he wandered out into the hall and just started following a random group of boys walking down the hall. As I peeked out into the hallway, I noticed that he had wound up outside the 6th grade classroom so I asked him what he was doing and he just shrugged his shoulders and said “I’m just following I guess.” It made me realize how easy it is to wander off and just follow without a clear sense of direction!
I suppose every now and then it’s a good practice to stop and take a long hard look at who we’re following and just where they’re leading us. As we inch our way closer to the November elections, there certainly is no shortage of people inviting us to follow them! It’s easy to lose our way if our compass isn’t pointing straight up! Following the right path isn’t always the smooth and easy path for sure but the blessing at the end of the right path is a dandy one indeed!
The words from Luke’s Gospel remind us that Jesus didn’t just say follow me; He said pick up your cross and follow me. There is a duty assigned, not just some random wandering along behind. Sometimes that cross we need to drag along as we follow Him is one we’d just rather drop alongside the path and go on without! That’s not how it works is it!
In the last week, my husband Dave and I have gone to three wakes and visited with families as they mourned and celebrated the life of a loved one. As we listened to the stories of their lives; the struggles and ultimately their triumphs, I was very aware of the crosses they carried and the Lord they followed. One of the lives we celebrated this week was an absolutely lovely woman who was the mother of 15 children. She was a lady who knew who she needed to follow. One of her sons is a Catholic Priest. Another son is a Catholic Brother who serves as a missionary in Jamaica. Also among the 15 is a son who was born with Down’s Syndrome and is loved throughout the community and is hailed as our local high school’s biggest sports fan. The others are hard-working, cheerful, faithful, friendly loving men and women. I would imagine she bore her share of crosses through the years and her faithful following is evident in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.Her family all shared that she was so ready to“go be with Jesus.” That kind of peace and blessed assurance doesn’t come unless you’ve been following the right leader!
I’d love to be called to God’s office and recognized as a “following student” one of these days! When it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, I suppose what really matters is making sure those you follow are going to lead you closer to heaven. If their words and actions show you otherwise, they just might lead you somewhere you aren’t interested in going. It’s a choice, and yes, actually choosing who you’ll follow might be a cross to bear all in itself because we live in a society that seems to lead us in a direction contrary to the one Jesus pointed out. The last time I checked, popular opinion and majority rule didn’t dictate eternal life, picking up a cross and following Jesus did!
A seed to plant: Give some serious thought to who you’re following. Are there things in your life that might influence your ability to follow Jesus? Go ahead...pick up your cross and be one of Jesus' following students this week…I’ll bet He’s got a special place to lead you!
Blessings on your day!