"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.'
We all face choices. Big choices, small choices, and choices we wish we didn't have to make.
Choices that weigh us down, choices that set us free. And sometimes, those choices even reach into our own backyards, and our livelihoods.
Just look at Sylvamo. Sylvamo, a global paper company with mills all over the world including a presence even in our community.
Last year, Sylvamo faced a crossroads. Russia invaded Ukraine, and the company had to decide what to do about its operations in Russia.
They had to choose between the easy path of keeping things going as they are or the right path of making a "principle-based decision," as they called it, even if it meant losing out on some profits.
You see, Sylvamo picked up its cross. It chose to sell its Russian operations, leaving money on the table but keeping its conscience.
But Sylvamo is not alone, and neither are you and I. We all have crosses waiting for us, decisions that pull us this way and that, decisions that define who we are.
Like Mary. Mary worked for 25 years as a teacher in a school, nourishing young minds. One day she discovered that the school was cutting corners, using outdated textbooks, and compromising the education of the children.
Mary was at a crossroads. If she spoke out, she risked losing her job, her security, and even her reputation. A heavy cross to bear.
Then there's George. George was in the insurance business. One day he found out that his company was overcharging elderly customers by exploiting their lack of understanding of the complicated plans.
Now George was on the verge of retirement; he could just let it go, enjoy his pension and the fruit of his labor. Yet another cross, waiting to be picked up or left behind.
Mary chose to speak, and yes, it cost her the job but won her the community's respect. George, too, chose to act, reporting the malpractice. He was let go, but a load was lifted off his conscience.
Or maybe you know of a friend who's going through a hard time and could use some support. It'd be easier to keep your distance, but isn't the right path to share in their burden?
Jesus tells us today, "If you try to save your life, you'll lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it." What a paradox! But that's the essence of our faith, isn't it?
Now, speaking of essence, in a few moments we'll approach the altar for the Eucharist—the body and blood, the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this sacrament, we find the courage to face our own crosses, to make our own hard but right choices. Each time we say "Amen," we are strengthened to go out into the world, into our workplaces, our homes, and yes, even our Sylvamos, to carry our crosses, to make those principle-based decisions.
So today, on this Labor Day weekend, let’s remember: We are more than the work we do; we are the choices we make. And each choice to carry our cross is a step toward Christ, a step toward becoming who we're called to be.