February 19 – Take up your cross
Jesus told the disciples, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
It is difficult for us to suffer any pain or loss. We will hold onto unhealthy relationships because we don’t want to be alone. We have a variety of ways to deal with this, some aren’t so healthy for us.
We will avoid uncomfortable situations instead of confronting a loved one who is sinning because we don’t want to “rock the boat.” What Jesus tells His disciples is that we need to stop protecting ourselves from pain and suffering, and take up our crosses daily to follow Him. Jesus had to go through rejection of the religious leadership, whipped, pushed, crowned with thorns, and crucified. That was only his final day on earth. For months, the tension and persecution had been building up. He had to go through this suffering because it was the will of the Father.
Jesus also tells his disciples that if we are to follow Him, we also must take up our cross daily and follow Him. What does that mean? It means facing our fears for those who may judge us for our Catholic faith. It means doing the will of the Father and standing up for what is right before God, not being “tolerant” or “right” because our society tells us so. It is professing Jesus Christ as Lord when others are trying to make us deny Him. It is turning away from living a sinful life which takes away the promise of eternal life in Heaven with God.
It is often said, “we go out of this life with what we brought in” – nothing. We all began the same way as a helpless naked infant loved by God. We are raised in different situations and lifestyles, but we all began with the same blessing – we are loved by God. And we will also leave this life someday also leaving with the same blessing – we are loved by God. What changes the outcome of our eternal life is what we do between the time of our birth and death. During our lives, we have an opportunity to either love God in return and live lives that bring glory to Him, or give up that love for the love of the world. In Matthew 10:32-33, Jesus tells us, “So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Do not deny Jesus to gain in this temporal world. Instead, save your eternal life, suffer for the sake of Christ, and gain your heavenly home.
Lent in Action:
If given even the slightest opportunity, stand up for what is right.
Jesus, show me the times in my life when I have been quick to deny you because I do not want to suffer rejection from family or friends. Give me friends who are strong in the faith to help guide me and support me. Give me the strength to acknowledge you as my Lord and Savior, and help me to turn away from the sinful things I use to mask the pain or take You away from me. Comfort me when I am in pain, so that I rely completely on you. I ask this in your Holy Name. Amen.