Taking Up Our Cross
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must …
take up his cross daily and follow me.”
Today’s Gospel challenges us to true discipleship, to follow a Messiah who defies all our human expectations. In the verses immediately preceding today’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “… who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “The Messiah of God” (v. 20). In this context of Peter’s confession of faith, Jesus defines the kind of Messiah he is, challenging Peter (and each of us) to a deeper faith. Jesus reminds us that he did not choose to come into our world in glory and triumph. Instead, he chose to come into the world as a suffering Messiah who would be rejected, killed, and raised on the third day.
Jesus calls his disciples to follow in his footsteps and to take up our cross daily.… That word “daily” stands out for me. Jesus is asking us for commitment—a resolute decision to carry our cross—not just through this season of Lent, or when big sufferings come our way, but every day. Yet how are we to do this?
For those of us seeking to live the Christian life, we won’t have to look far to find the cross. We are called to daily lay down our lives by letting go of our own preferences, desires, strong opinions. We make choices for the sake of Christ and his Gospel and not on the basis of our own immediate feelings or reactions. On any given day, this may mean many things. Perhaps it will mean setting aside my own need for recognition while seeking to encourage others in their gifts, or choosing not to act out of feelings of anger when a family member says something that hurts. In each circumstance, we are called to choose Christ and to place the good of others before our own. Yet the cross never has the last word! With every death to self, the cross leads to resurrection and new life in Christ.
Jesus, I do not always understand your ways. Sometimes, your cross feels like folly to me. Why would you choose suffering and death over triumph and glory? Teach me the mystery of your ways, and how to choose the good of others before my own. This Lent, I renew my commitment to carry my cross daily. May this laying down of my life unite me with you and bring life to others, allowing me to share more deeply in your Easter joy. For if I die with you, I will also live with you.
“For to me, ‘life’ is Christ …” (Phil 1:21).
Daughters of Saint Paul. (2008). Lenten Grace: Daily Gospel Reflections (pp. 8–9). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.