Hard and Difficult

From “Sermon 96” (ca. 400)

“If any would come after me, let them deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.” The Lord’s command seems hard and difficult. And yet it is not hard and difficult given that it is the command of him who helps us in carrying out what he commands.

What was spoken to him in the voice of the psalmist is true: “Because of your command I have followed the hard road.” But true, also, are Christ’s own words: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Or to put it another way, whatever is hard in the precept is made easy by love.

But what is the meaning of the words: “take up the cross”? It means we should bear whatever is troublesome; on that understanding alone can a person follow Christ. For when we begin to follow Christ in his character and teaching, we will encounter many who will contradict us, many who will try to forbid us, man who will seek actively to dissuade us from following Christ. Remember, the people who tried to prevent the blind man from calling out to Jesus were the same people who walked at Christ’s side. Whether, therefore, it is a matter of threats or flattery or prohibitions, if you wish to follow Christ, turn to the cross, endure, bear up, and refuse to give in.

It is in this world which is holy, good, reconciled, saved — or rather in the process of being saved, at the moment only saved in hope, as Scripture says: “in this hope were we saved” — in this world in which the Church tries to follow Christ in totality, Jesus calls out to people everywhere: “If any would come after me, let them deny themselves.”

St. Augustine (354-430) was a theologian and philosopher who served as Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was a voluminous author, whose writings about God’s grace, the Sacraments, and the Church have been profoundly influential in the development of Western Christianity. His feast day is August 26. 


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