In Seoul, South Korea multiple Protestant churches showcase neon-illuminated crosses at night, earning for the place the moniker “city of a thousand churches.” Initially received by the locals with fascination, the lights turned into a nuisance for many who saw it as light pollution. For some people the cross is a comforting symbol but for others it can be a sinister omen.

In today’s gospel the Lord Jesus guides his disciples as they progress from knowing him (You are the Christ), to learning of his passion and glory, and then to accepting the condition for following him through the daily acceptance of their own cross. Most Catholics and Orthodox love making the Sign of the Cross on their bodies but in truth they want to have nothing to do with the cross in actual life.

In a world that today values wholeness and wellness, we focus our desires on the attainment of health, wealth, happiness and fulfilled lives. We want to receive and enjoy God’s blessings which he promised in abundance to those who ask for them. We often forget or forego the promise of the Lord that those who are ordained for glory must walk the path of suffering and pain too. The cross is not an option for Jesus’ followers; it is a guarantee.

Suffering affects all of us. There are daily irritations at home and at work. Relationships become demanding and unbearable. The body gives in to sickness. Violence wracks families and communities. Many people are too depressed to live another day that they resort to hopelessness and despair. While nobody wants any of these, when they do come and they always do, the Lord advises us to follow his path to glory and victory – by courageously taking up our cross.

While the logic of the cross may remain a puzzle to so many of us, it is a fact that in carrying our cross, the Lord does not abandon us but keeps an eye on us, accompanies us, shares our pains, and consoles and strengthens us. A good parent does not remove the obstacles in the life of his child but assists her in overcoming them. It is the same with God. Jesus embraced the cross to show us the way to live in a challenging world and to save us by going through all the pain we as humans go through.

The next time we make the Sign of the Cross, let us remember to lift up to the Lord the trials we experience today. As we confidently confront our challenges, let us humbly ask that he join us and accompany us every step of the way. Let us ask him to support us that we may become stronger and undeterred in determination to surmount our troubles through the power of our faith and hope in him.