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On Father’s Day I told one of my favorite stories. I believe it again fits with today’s readings:

A young father to be was pacing back and forth, wringing his hands in the hospital corridor while his wife was in labor. His stomach was tied up in knots of fear and anxiety. Beads of perspiration were dripping from his brow. 

Finally at 4:00 AM a nurse popped out of the delivery room and announced, “Congratulations, Sir! You now have a beautiful little daughter!” He dropped his hands and became limp as he blurted out: “Oh, thank God, it’s a girl! She’ll never have to go through the agony I’ve had to go through tonight!”

MYOPIC!! This father surely suffered from myopia – nearsightedness. Didn’t he have the slightest idea of what his wife was going through in labor?

Don’t we all suffer from myopia until we change our location? When we visit or are a patient in a hospital or a nursing home we often say: “Boy I didn’t have it so bad after all, compared to some of the other people around me.” 

In today’s Gospel (Matt 16:21-27), Jesus tries to help his disciples and us with our myopia, our near-sightedness. Jesus says that his own death is on the horizon. Peter says that no such thing is going to happen. Jesus blows his cork. “Get behind me, you Satan,” for your thinking is clouded. 

Then Jesus gives us one of the greatest teachings of his life: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” You and I can read dozens of spiritual books, take psychology courses, and not find anything better than Jesus’ words. 

First, he says we must deny our very self. Jesus is not asking us to be a doormat, to let others walk all over us. Rather, he’s saying we must tame and harness our huge egos. 

Leonard Bernstein, the great New York conductor and composer was asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Without blinking an eye, he responded, “Second Fiddle!” Everyone wants to play First Violin or First French Horn, not Second! Yet it is so important to have the Second Fiddler in order to have harmony, isn’t it?

This is so true in our families. Someone has to be Second Fiddle to have harmony. I remember as a youngster. All the boys wanted to bat Fourth – to be the cleanup hitter, like in the Major Leagues. One of my favorite mantras that I often say to myself is:

THE LOVE THAT COUNTS IS THE LOVE THAT COSTS. 

Then Jesus says to take up your cross daily.There are a couple of things to be said about crosses….With rare exceptions, we are all crosses to each other. We all see and do things differently. I once visited a family who have a summer home on a lake. They have been married for over 40 years and have had the summer home most of their marriage. The husband loves it. She hates it. She would rather be back in their own neighborhood and close to their grandkids. Life at the summer home is a cross to her.

Our crosses change throughout our lifetimes – homework when we were young, our jobs and paying bills as well got older, and illnesses when we retire. But at each stage of our life, we need to remember:

THE LOVE THAT COUNTS IS THE LOVE THAT COSTS. 

Jesus also says: “to follow in my footsteps.” Jesus is always going somewhere. There are no Dead Ends with Jesus. Our own footsteps often lead to Dead Ends…..

One father stopped every day at a local bar for a drink or two after work. Then one day his son came in after him to the bar. “What are you doing here?” the father asked. “I followed your footprints in the snow, Dad,” said the son. The father was following a Dead End and leading his son there without even knowing it. There are no Dead Ends when we are following Jesus….

THE LOVE THAT COUNTS IS THE LOVE THAT COSTS. 

What cross do you bear or carry that gives true meaning to the mantra…..

THE LOVE THAT COUNTS IS THE LOVE THAT COSTS?

You can read about Jesus sharing his love in today’s world in my new book – THE GATHERING

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