What are you willing to risk for the sake of the Kingdom of God? In our Gospel reading today, Jesus says: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself." Sometimes this means denying our sinful desires, but sometimes it means rejecting good, healthy desires in order to pursue a higher goal.
For example, if you witness an injustice at work or in the parish and speaking up about it might cost you your good reputation and maybe even your job -- it's right and perfectly acceptable to protect what God has given you. However, the moment this self-protection interferes with God's plan for a greater good, we've become too narrowly focused on ourselves.
I'm the type of person who'd rather avoid conflict than cause it. In the name of God, people who are like me stay silent when there's a need to cause a stir. We call it "loving our enemies" and "being patient" and "being peacemakers." But to make peace, there has to first be a battle. Moses stirred up a lot of trouble when he told the pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage; the Egyptians were not at war with the Jewish nation until Moses stood up for his people.
To translate this into Christian terms, the Israelites had to pick up their crosses and become willing to lose their lives in order to gain their freedom. And as Moses reminded his followers in today's first reading, God delivered them to safety. As I gain ground in trusting God, I'm becoming feistier in standing up to injustices and immorality when the Holy Spirit says I can make a difference.
What pharaoh is in your life? What bondage are you witnessing that you feel disturbed about? Use that disturbance as the gift from God that it truly is! The desire in you to do something about an injustice has been placed there by God himself. It connects you to the Passion of Jesus, which hurts, of course, and is your cross to bear for a while. But saying no to it is saying no to your solidarity with those who are already suffering and for whom you are called to be Christ's presence on earth. And it says no to your solidarity with Christ, who is your source of eternal justice.
Our efforts to guard ourselves from hardships for the sake of an easy life will never work anyway. We cannot entirely avoid suffering here on earth, so why not use it for the Kingdom of God? Our Father always protected Jesus, even on the Cross: He protected his Son from eternal death. He will protect us, too, in a way and time of his own choosing. Do we want to give that up in order to avoid trouble?
Sometimes we must suffer a battle in order to win a victory. If we're doing what God wants us to do, he is at our side, suffering more than we do, kissing our wounds, strengthening us, and leading us to the glorious life of the Kingdom. In this unity of passion, he is our safety -- he is always safe.