Why do we love reality TV? We’ve had a number of these programs: Survivor Philippines, Philippine Idol, Fear Factor, Pinoy Big Brother, Pinoy Dream Academy – copies or franchises of foreign programs.  And they continue to excite us because there is a human drama involved. A reality program is not merely a showcase of talents, beauty or wit.  First and foremost, it is a challenge of guts. With the many hurdles, obstacles and humiliations to overcome, we await the reaction of the contestants:  will he/she continue the fight or start the flight?

In daily life, there is no hidden camera following our moves, nor is there a mini-microphone recording our comments.  With or without these gadgets, our life is the true reality program!  Day in and day out, we are faced with multitudes of challenges and trials. We feel them even if at times, we don’t see them. And in every turn, the same question is asked: will he/she continue the fight or resort to flight?

Today’s gospel instructs us in the way to handle the cross that comes with life. Jesus indicates that the way to become his disciples involves forgetting self, carrying the cross and following him.  He encourages us to have the determination and strength to pick up the cross and fight to the finish.  Does he have the right to prod us on into this course of action?  Yes, of course, for remembering Jesus is remembering the God-man who bore the cross on his shoulders and was nailed to it to his gruesome death.  When Jesus tells us, ‘Fight!’, he knows what it means.  When we say that the Resurrection is Jesus’ victory, we know that it is so only because he fought for it.

The problem with many of us is that instead of Fight, our favorite word is Flight.  When we realize the enormity of challenges before us, we do not pick up the cross.  We pick up our slippers and start racing away.  Daunted by the pain and the difficulty, we run away from the test.  We have been used to so much comfort or learned to be indifferent, that we dread resolving life’s trials.

When there are problems to be solved between couples, within the family or workplace, isn’t it that many people would rather flee, keep quiet, seek liquor or drugs, hang-out with friends, than courageously face the issues? Students having trouble with their courses drop their subject or shift to another college. Even some priests, facing problems in their assignments, pack their bags and leave. Before uncharted waters, many choose to retreat than explore the possibilities that lie ahead.  That explains why many people are unfulfilled, full of regrets, sad and depressed.  A life of constant running from our responsibilities and our possibilities depletes our energy and strength. It moves us away from the destiny planned by God, our own “resurrection”.

Friends, Jesus points to us the cross not as a sign of pain but as a symbol of hope, a path to victory.  If we ignore the cross of life, we will never grow, mature or develop beyond our comfort zones. We need to take up the cross and experience “creative suffering” – the necessary task of identifying our problems, confronting them and overcoming them. This is the path of the strong, the hero and the saint.  They were blessed because they chose ‘fight’ over ‘flight’.