Der Vasken's Sermon on May 19, 2019

May 20, 2019

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"Kendrick Castillo died a legend.  He died a trooper and he will be with me for the rest of my life."

These were the words of a high school student as he eulogized a classmate last Wednesday morning.  I am sure we all heard that another school shooting took place last week.  This one took place in Colorado and again took innocent life.  This is not the first time we have looked at this type of societal illness and unfortunately, it probably won't be the last. Today I don't want to dwell on the details as much as we have in the past because, truthfully, I don't understand why this keeps happening and I don't understand how we, as a society, are raising up young people with such deep levels of darkness in their hearts.

But I will say this, on the day of the shooting, eighteen-year-old Kendrick was watching "The Princess Bride" in his British literature class when the shooter pulled out a gun, told everyone not to move and began firing. After Kendrick lunged at the shooter, three other students also tackled the gunman and tried to subdue him allowing the rest of the class to escape the room. "Kendrick Castillo died a legend.  He died a trooper," his classmate said.  This classmate was one of the three, who helped him stop the gunman.  "I know Kendrick will be with me for the rest of my life," he said.  Kendrick died at his school. When his parents arrived and learned what had happened to their son, they said that they were not surprised to learn that their son ran toward danger that day.  "This wasn't your average kid," his father said.  "He was extraordinary."

Today is a Sunday dedicated to the Holy Cross.  We can use this Sunday to recall the greatest sacrifice ever made on a Cross in Jerusalem.  We can use this Sunday to ask ourselves what does the Cross of our faith mean to you and me personally, or we can use this Sunday to have the Cross of Christ lead us down a path He needs us to travel like Kendrick.  Kendrick Castillo died with a cross around his neck. 

Listen to this quote from the Bible: "Then Jesus said to them:  'If anyone wants to follow Me, he must first take up his cross and then follow Me.'" Jesus spoke these Words to His disciples.  Many people think these Words are the most upsetting in all of the New Testament.  They are upsetting because they tell us something we don't want to hear.  They tell us that we are not the center of the world.  That even though we live in an increasingly "me-centered world," we are not the center of it.  They are upsetting because they tell us that sacrificing our needs for the needs of others is one of the cornerstones of the Christian faith. 

In practical terms, what does it mean for us to "take up our cross" and follow Jesus?  It means to pick up the cross that was placed on your shoulders and carry it forward.  It means to pick up that heavy weight that burdens your life for His sake and eternal life is yours.  It is about doing God's work in this world.  It is about caring for God's children in this world.  It is suffering by denying your wants for the wants of others.  It is suffering by denying your needs for the needs of those around you.  He says it this way:  "Whoever loses his life for Me will save it for eternal life."  In other words, whoever cares for other people and puts their needs before his or her own, serves God and will inherit eternal life.

To "take up our cross" and follow Christ means to follow His example in life the best we can by doing what He would do at that moment. By being His hands and His feet, His eyes and His heart in this world so completely, we set ourselves apart from the world while living in it and working in it, and loving those around us and those who need us.

Living as Christ lived is not easy. Sometimes it is easier not to be like Him.  Sometimes it is more popular to do just the opposite because the world around us has little value for God or His ways.  "Taking up our cross in life" means living our lives with our faith in the center and denying our plans for God's plans.  The Son of God promises us that when we do take up His cross, we are following Him on the path that leads to eternal life.

So on this May Sunday of the Holy Cross, let us remember the Cross of Our Lord is calling us to look for new ways to live out our faith every day in this world.  

  • What stands in your way of "taking up your cross" and following Him?
  • And what does your cross in life look like?
"Then Jesus said to them: 'If anyone wants to follow Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me.'"

Amen.