Today, Jesus tells us that if we are going to be his disciples we must take up our cross each day and follow him. Not the most pleasant thing to here but it’s not an option when it comes to discipleship.
Our cross will never, in any way, shape, or form, come anywhere close to the cross Jesus bore for us. Our cross is not made up of wood but of the daily burdens that are a part of life; worries, problems, sickness, conflicts within families……the list is endless. Perhaps there is no big cross, only a multiplicity of small crosses. However, enough drops eventually fill the cup to overflowing.
The cross we bear may not even be visible to others. It may not be an outward thing but an inward thing, such as depression, grief, or an addiction. These are heavy crosses.
The most painful cross to bear is the one in which we have no choice. For example, the cross of living with a difficult person. It is much easier to choose a cross for oneself than to accept the one that comes.
As disciples of Christ we are called to a daily dying to self. This dying to self begins at Baptism. As St. Paul wrote, “In baptism we were buried with Christ.” We let go of the old life of sin, and became a new creature (symbolized by the white baptismal garment) able to live in the freedom of the children of God. This is a lifelong process in which we are able to persevere in only with the help of God’s grace.
We must keep in mind the purpose of this death, our ultimate goal, that being, resurrection. The death of the old, sin-ridden self results in the birth of the new self, modeled on Christ. The person who strives selfishly for personal fulfillment will only see it slip through one’s fingers, while the one who sacrifices oneself for Christ will find true fulfillment.
Jesus did not choose the easy way. He chose the way of self-sacrifice and suffering. It wasn’t because he was attracted to suffering, it was because he chose the way of love! And love inevitably results in suffering. But then love is the only thing that makes suffering bearable and fruitful.
We are saved not by Christ’s suffering but by his love. And it was through his suffering that he attained glory. If we suffer with him on earth we can rest assured that we will be glorified with him in Heaven.
Nowhere in the Gospels will you find Jesus saying, “If you are my disciples, you will have a cushy, comfy life.” He does assure us that if we embrace the Cross, the Tree of Life, resurrection and eternal life will be ours.
— Fr. Dennis, July 2, 2017