Gospel Reflection Wednesday 31st Week Ordinary Time (8 November) – Carrying the Cross
Tony Worner, Leader of Formation for St Agnes’ Catholic Parish reads from Luke’s Gospel (14: 25-33) in which Jesus, after leaving the meal with the Pharisee and his guests, he encounters a great crowd that follows him as he continues teaching his message of what is needed for discipleship. Tony says, Jesus is pretty clear in our Gospel reading today: ‘Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple’. Tony recently viewed a painting with an unusual take on this reading: Christ Carrying the Cross, painted in 1920 by Sir Stanley Spencer (1891-1959). Spencer depicts a scene from the end of Christ’s life taking place in Spencer’s hometown. In the biblical account, Christ carries the cross through Jerusalem, but Spencer sets the scene in the English village of Cookham. Spencer believed that religious feeling was present in everyday settings and events. The painting was partly inspired by watching builders carrying ladders down a Cookham street. These figures are present in the painting, following behind Christ. The Virgin Mary sits by a railing in the foreground. The brick house is the artist’s family home. Taking the path God is calling us to take, means we must pick up our cross. For some it may be a very big cross on a straight road; for others it may be a small cross but facing very winding roads. Jesus declares that being his disciple may even involve hating family members. The reference to ‘hating’ isn’t to be taken literally. Jesus uses deliberately provocative language to declare that being his disciple may sometimes require us to go against even our closest friends. Being faithful to the Gospel can mean occasionally finding ourselves at odds with those who are personally significant for us. When Sir Stanley Spencer painted this canvas, it met with a lot of resistance. He was at odds with his critics. But he stayed faithful to his calling as an artist and depicted what he thought he needed to do. He persisted. He needed strength and courage to do what he did as an artist. Similarly, Jesus is calling us to show strength and courage when we sculpt the journeys of our own spiritual lives. In closing Tony invites us to pray: ‘May God grant me the courage to stand firm’.