Thus, this slogan mentioned above is often expressed as “I am into spirituality but not into religion”. Religion, composed of tenets and practices, belongs to the “organised” world, a world of “authority” which means that it should not be trusted. Today, I would like to do something which is not exactly revolutionary and it deals with the rehabilitation of the word “religion”. It is a word derived from the Latin “religio”. The origin of the word is obscure but it is accepted by some circles that it is derived from “ligare” which means to bind or to connect. Re-ligare would have the meaning to reconnect or realign.
The intent of the 2nd Reading may be read along the lines of “religion”, not so much of “organised” religion but rather of making a re-connexion between what we believe and how we ought to live. Last week, we may read Peter’s confession in the context of him coming to believe in Jesus, whereas this week, we realise that Peter’s confession does not take into consideration the real consequence of believing in Jesus. There seems to be a gap between Peter’s confession and the acceptance of the consequence of his confession.
Before a Catholic or two Catholics get married, we conduct the “pre-nuptial” enquiry. In the case of a marriage between a Catholic and a “non-Catholic” (be he or she a Protestant or of another faith), I tell the Catholic party that there are more “Catholics in hell than there are of people from other religions”. It sounds harsh, considering, but that’s the implication of being a follower of Jesus. Think about it, I am not saying anything more than what we claim ourselves to be. Whether one is aware or not, this is the consequence of Peter’s confession and Jesus’ reply: You are Peter and upon you I will build my Church. We, Catholics believe that we are the Church that Jesus established. Given that belief the higher expectation of us is justified. Isn’t that what Jesus says? The more is given, the more is to be expected.  In today’s Gospel, that expectation is called the cross.
For years, I have never bothered about asking people to be Catholics. That’s not because of an exclusivist position, meaning that only Catholics are saved. Rather, it is because of this higher expectation of us that I have thought to myself, “Life is hard, why make it any harder?" So, anyone who has this notion that after baptism, life is going to be bed of roses ought to have the head examined. After baptism, the testing, trials and temptations will come . This paints a rather dismal picture of what it means to be a Catholic or Christian.
The truth is life is NOT hard. It is just that the human spirit is made for the ascent, the climb, which is the so-called hard part. It might seem hard but in fact, the ascent, the difficult, the challenge is the food of the human spirit. We are when we are challenged, tested, and tried. This is why true religion is inherently transcendental because it takes us out of ourselves. On the one hand, there is a fascination with spirituality, but this fascination ties in with the fear of making commitment.  This is a fear that we encounter today, even more so with young people—whose idea of freedom is basically “keeping my options” open. Religion on the other hand, is about re-aligning oneself to the will of God and that desire, intention or commitment itself is fraught with the possibility of suffering.
Therefore, take up your cross and follow me is naturally our motto. It cannot be otherwise. When Jesus speaks of his impending suffering, he is not glorifying suffering. Instead, He is telling us that suffering will come when we align ourselves with God; when we live God’s will or do God’s work. Like Jeremiah, we may never know what we are letting ourselves into and at times will like Jeremiah say to God, “You have seduced me and I am now a laughing stock”. But, St Paul calls the cross a “living sacrifice”. Not a once-in-a-life-time sacrifice but a living sacrifice which requires that daily, we surrender our love for security, for an easy life and for whatever that is good, beneficial or advantageous that the world can promise.
Our faith gives us strength but it does not protect us from the pains or hurts of life. But, like I said, the human spirit is made for the arduous ascent. It is at home when the going gets tough . For us who are usually “kiasu” [afraid to be on the losing end], we might want to prepare or shield ourselves for the “tough” days. The point is the “tough” days will come. The only preparation we can make is not in the future but in the here and now through the daily sacrifices in life . The martyrs did not purposely go out and say “Nah, nah, nah nah... make me a martyr”. They were probably afraid like we are. But it’s through the daily sacrifices in life that they are able to step up to it because grace will be given only when it is needed most.
When the big sacrifice comes, God’s grace will meet us there for in the cross, we are carried not by our own strength but by the one on whose shoulder sits the cross of the world.
 That’s the underlying assumption of the X-Files TV series.
 In a sense, being Catholic does not really confer “better” benefit. It is a great privilege and honour to be counted amongst the followers of Jesus Christ.
 Suffering comes not because we deserve it but because following Christ means that his cross will cast its shadow upon us.
 In fact, spirituality thrives in such a situation because it can take in experiences which are diverse, inclusive and less dogmatic. When something is less “dogmatic” it requires less “commitment”.
 The human spirit thrives not because we glorify suffering but because suffering accepted in Christ at once humanises and divinises us.
 Now you know one of the reasons why this church is not air-conditioned. Our discomfort is a reminder of the sacrifices we make in love of and for God.