You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped… (Jeremiah 20:7)
Ever felt like you were duped by God? The prophet Jeremiah certainly did. He was called by God. Jeremiah objected. He was too young. Using the term Michelle Stewart, our Director of Religious Education, used a couple of weekends ago when she asked for more teachers, Jeremiah was unqualified. God didn’t let him off the hook and Jeremiah paid a price. He was attacked, beaten, and put into stocks. His life was threatened several times, he was imprisoned, and even thrown into a cistern. Despite all of this suffering, Jeremiah can’t help himself. He has to continue to prophesy.
Jesus tells his disciples in today’s Gospel, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Jeremiah understood what Jesus was talking about. Jesus’ disciples did not understand.
Scholars point out that taking up one’s cross would have meant nothing to anyone before Jesus historically took up his own cross. Some suggest that what the historical Jesus actually meant by taking up the cross was that they must take up their “tau” and follow him. The tau – T – is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. When a person wanted to say he or she had done something completely, they used the expression: “I did it from aleph to tau.” (Just as we’d say, “I did it from a to z.”) Or they’d abbreviate the statement, saying simply, “I did it to the tau.”
When this Galilean carpenter called on his followers to carry their tau, he was telling them to be completely open to whatever God wanted them to do, to make God present and working in their lives, the center of their existence. He was echoing Jeremiah’s demand that people cut through their religious entanglement and return to Yahweh.
It is easy to imagine how Jesus’ tau eventually morphed into a cross. Not only was the tau a symbol and term for the crucifix, Jesus’ dedication and openness to God was epitomized by his crucifixion. Knowing the tau background of Jesus’ statement helps us understand that carrying one’s cross originally didn’t refer to patiently enduring some dramatic moment of suffering. It described an ongoing, generous, open and honest relationship with God, a daily quest to discover what God wishes of us during this specific day. Such a quest involves a real death to self and real sacrifice. Many of Jesus’ imitators could write their own confessions and lamentations like those of Jeremiah. (Fr. Karban, Celebration)
Thanks to everyone who volunteered to be a teacher for our CFP program. We appreciate your generous response. Parents, we have our teachers ready to teach your children. If you have not registered your child for CFP or CGS yet, I encourage you to do it soon. We look forward to a wonderful year. There will be mass on Labor Day at 8:00 a.m. in our Daily Chapel.