The first day of September always makes me think of the 2004 Green Day anthem, “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” The song is fairly repetitive, but it is eminently catchy and reminiscent of a lot of the ’90s music I grew up on, so it’s one of my favorites. (As an aside, the video is haunting but not terribly relevant to my message today.)
At least at face value, the song is pretty simple: an expression of the desire to hibernate, at least emotionally, through difficult times, like the first month back at school after summer break.
We’ve probably all felt like this at least once in our lives--maybe you’re feeling like this right now. It can take on many specific forms--denial, avoidance, sloth--but in the end, it seems like a natural human instinct to try to circumvent the difficult, the uncomfortable, and the unpleasant.
However, Scripture tells us that much of what seems to be a “natural” part of the human experience is actually a result of human sinfulness and not a part of how God made us and wants us to be. In fact, this past Sunday’s Gospel included an admonition from Jesus that seems absolutely counterintuitive: “‘Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).
Of course, Jesus knew that only a small minority of His followers would literally suffer crucifixion, but He still addresses His words to all of us. Each one of us bears a cross of trials, difficulties, and injustices, and these can feel unbearable at times, but if anyone knows how we feel, it’s Jesus. His cross was not just the physical instrument of his execution but also the weight of all the sins of all humanity: past, present, and future.
What’s more, He bears our crosses with us each and every day, and when we unite our suffering with His, He allows us to share in its glorious fruits: the overcoming of sin and death and the unfathomable delights of eternal life.
So, as you look September in the face on this, its first day, resist the temptation to hit the metaphorical snooze button. Resolve instead to take on its challenges head-on, knowing that, in doing so, you walk with Christ, who promises us two sentences after the passage above, “‘For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct’” (Matthew 16:27).
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Do not permit me to be separated from thee.
From the evil foe protect me.
At the hour of my death call me,
and bid me come to thee,
that with all your saints I may praise thee
for ever and ever.