D W Y L: This is an acronym for Do What You Love. This expression becomes a refrain at the end of the academic year as young people graduate from college. Keynote speakers at graduation ceremonies throughout our country often offer the “do what you love” advice. Here is what Steve Jobs said to the graduating class of Stanford in 2005: Find something that you love. You will spend a great deal of your life working, and you will never be completely satisfied unless your work is great. And your work cannot be great unless you love what you do. Now let me say at the beginning that Steve Jobs has a point. If we are able to earn our living doing something good and loving what we do, that is a great blessing. It is a gift to love what you do.
But, as I began to think about this, I wondered whether my father loved what he did. My father was a butcher, and unlike many butchers today, his job was more than unpacking packages of pre-prepared meats and setting them out on the shelves of the supermarket. My father carried huge slabs of beef on his shoulder and cut them up with a cleaver and a hacksaw. It was hard work, and I remember watching him do it. But I never asked my father, “Dad, do you love what you do?” I think if I would have asked him, he would have said, “It’s good enough on most days. But it is steady work and fair pay, and that is what I need.” My father did not necessarily love being a butcher, but he loved providing for his family. And therefore, his work was good, even if it was difficult.
Jesus is saying something similar in today’s gospel. When he tells us to take up our cross and follow him, he is not saying that suffering is a good thing or that we should go out and find something difficult for its own sake. He is saying that when we carry a burden, when we do something that is hard, it can have value, if it brings about something good. It is not easy being a parent, waking up in the night with a newborn, being patient with our teenage daughter, forgiving an adult son who makes some major mistakes. But, unless we are willing to take up such difficulties and carry them, we cannot be the parents that our children need us to be. It is not easy to remain positive when we have to deal with ongoing sickness or deteriorating health. But unless we take up that burden and bear it, we will end up being negative and depressed people. It is not easy challenging someone who acts unjustly or treats others with prejudice. But unless we speak out, it will be less likely for our society to be the place it should be.
If we love our life and our job, that is indeed a blessing. But even then, we cannot all the time do what we love. Sometimes we must do what we hate, because it needs to be done. And each time we do something difficult for the right reason, we not only prove ourselves to be people of worth. We also show that we are disciples, carrying our cross after Jesus.