Then Jesus said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
Jesus offers a blunt challenge in this reading from Luke’s gospel; a challenge to his disciples then and to us now. “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In fact, he speaks to all.
No one escapes the cross. It’s there each day. It may not look like the stark cross Jesus received from the hands of the chief priests, the elders and the scribes in Jerusalem, but it’s there all the same. We may not see it because it’s so much a part of life, but if we look closely our cross is there.
Actually, taking up our cross is a way of choosing life, which Moses urges in our first reading today, choosing not some “good” life, or idealized life, but life as it is. It means accepting life gratefully, fully, without resentfulness. If we listen to Moses in today’s first reading, choosing life affects not only ourselves but others too. Listen to him:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
A traditional Christian practice to begin the day is to make the Sign of the Cross. We do it to remind ourselves of the daily cross we bear and remember we do not bear it alone. God helps us bear whatever life brings each day. Christ bears it with us as he promised. Let’s remember this basic Christian practice in lent.
St. Paul of the Cross once wrote a letter to Teresa, a woman overwhelmed by life. What shall I do? she said. Paul urges her to let God’s Will decide for her what to do. He wanted people to find their cross and embrace it. It’s there before us.
“Teresa, listen to me and do what I’m telling you to do in the Name of the Lord. Do all you can to be resigned to the Will of God in all the sufferings that God permits, in your tiredness and in all the work you have to do. Keep your heart at peace and be recollected; don’t get upset by things. If you can go to church, go; if you can’t, stay home quietly; just do the Will of God in the work you have at hand.” (Letter 1135)
Bless me, Lord,
and help me take up the cross
that’s mine today,
though it may not seem like a cross at all. Let me do it gratefully.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.