The Gospel according to Luke (9: 22-25)
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then he 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. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see your loving hand at work with me today. Draw me close when I am tempted to flee from your providential plan.
Encountering Christ: Today’s gospel is literally on of those “come to Jesus moments.” He starts off by saying that he must suffer greatly, be rejected and killed. And, yes, I know I left something out, but hold that thought. Then after he paints this dismal picture he invites us to come after him and to expect much of the same treatment. This is not a very enticing proposition.
I remembered a story I heard a few years back thinking about one of the things Jesus invites us to do by taking up our daily cross. It is titled “The Burden You Bear” by an unknown author submitted by Debra Stitt. I will take the liberty of condensing and paraphrasing, but if you want to read the entire story, which is already short (six paragraphs) you can find it easily on the internet.
A man, troubled by many of life’s challenges, develops a habit in prayer of asking God to relieve him of his burdens. After some time, continued complaining, and asking for relief Jesus comes to the man and says he is willing to help him. He takes the troubled man to a room with one door. Jesus says that beyond that door he will find a room full of crosses of many different sizes. Jesus tells him these crosses represent the burdens, big and small, carried by people everywhere. He tells him to go in the room and find a cross that would better suit his desire for relief. The man begins his search by looking for the smallest cross among many very large crosses. He finds the smallest one in the room and with great delight tells Jesus he picks that one. Jesus looks at him and says that he has chosen his own cross.
We can all fall into the pit of despair when we see only our own burdens and focus only on moving past our challenges. I know I can, have, and will from time to time. But this approach to our relationship with Christ is short sighted. For one, we always have something to be thankful for. Yes, this may take some searching, but it is not hard if we try. Also, there is the illusion that everyone else’s cross is smaller and lighter than our own. That is obviously not true. All we must do is lift our heads and open our eyes. And, what of Jesus’ warning that gaining the whole world could cost us our very lives! In chasing the comforts of this world, we could lose the rewards of the next.
So let’s go back to what I left out at the beginning. After he says he must suffer greatly, be rejected and killed he also says “…and on the third day be raised.” Yes, his invitation leads to suffering, rejection, and eventually death. However, if we have the courage to follow him, we must deny ourselves, pick up our daily cross and follow HIM. This is what will lead us to the celebration of Easter, resurrection, eternal life with Him.
This road, this choice will always present great challenges. But we who have been on this journey also know it overflows with God’s grace. This is so much more evident with the additional burden that we are all bearing in this pandemic, devastating illness, under and unemployment, separation, loneliness, and death. Yet, through all of this we have also experienced, tenderness, compassion, companionship, fellowship, generosity, and so much love.
The road to resurrection is not solitary. We have each other and we have the one who although was without sin came to be with us, to be one of us, to show us how, and ultimately to make it possible for us to share in his eternal inheritance.
Closing Prayer: Dear Lord we ask for the grace to pick up our cross and follow you daily. In the process may we learn to love as you do so we may lose our lives for your sake and our brothers and sisters.
Action for the Day: In personal prayer, a quiet moment, or communal worship ask God for the strength you need to bear your cross. Allow that grace to help you, in little and big ways, express that through one extra act of kindness or service.