We pray over challenging readings this Sunday as we prepare to welcome Pope Francis to the United States. The apostle James writes: “You kill and envy; you fight and wage war. You ask but do not receive because you ask wrongly.” Jesus tells his disciples (and us) today: “The Son of Man is to be handed over, and they will kill him; and three days after his death he will rise.” But the apostles did not understand what Jesus was saying.

Though few of us bear the cross as personally as Jesus did, there are quite a few ways where our faith and our daily work, our family life and care for others may invite us to take up the cross. Often enough it happens through those pinches of reality which bring unwanted suffering in ways we do not plan.

The wisdom of the cross is all about the business of losing our lives, handing over our need for control, and throwing in our lot with this Jesus of Nazareth. He it is who strongly desires to use our particular gifts and talents for the healing and hope of our world. It is Jesus who throws us into relationship with one another, relationships grounded in God’s own generous, life-giving love. And it is Jesus who turns our expectations upside down with the admonition that the greatest will surely become the least; the first will certainly end up the last. It is Jesus who insists that, in noticing and embracing society’s most vulnerable, we receive the life of Jesus himself. This is the epitome of true wisdom!

—The Jesuit prayer team