“Then he said to them all: ‘Anyone who wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” (Luke 9:23)
I was stimulated to write this article by reading a very insightful meditation by the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, in the online Huntington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-james-martin-sj/take-up-my-cross_b_848587.html He pointed out three things about Jesus’ teaching, that someone who wants to follow him must “take up his cross”:
(1) The “cross” we have to bear is not what we select, but what God assigns to us.
(2) We have to accept the cross he has assigned to us.
(3) We should look for a resurrection on the other side of our cross experience.
I’d like to add a few thoughts to Fr. Martin’s excellent exhortation. First, I think the idea that we must “accept” our cross is not active enough. Jesus asks us to “take up” our assigned cross, which is a much stronger, more aggressive exhortation. We all have crosses to “bear,” to endure, to put up with. But until we “take up” our cross, embrace it as our special faith challenge and opportunity, we will not be Jesus’ disciple. Our greatest obstacle in life must be seen as our greatest opportunity if we are to carry our cross in a glorious, victorious way.
Furthermore, I would like to underline the word that is unique to Luke’s account of Jesus teaching (not in either Matthew or Mark), that we are to take up our cross “daily.” Other people may realize that we have a problem, but they’re not likely to understand how daily it is. Sometimes the cross we bear seems to dominate our conscious thoughts; we can’t put it out of mind, even for a moment. We should consider the possibility that, if we are preoccupied with a problem 24/7. That problem may be the cross we are called to carry as Jesus’ disciple.
But what I really love about Father Martin’s article is his emphasis on the “resurrection” that can be anticipated in the life of a person who takes up his cross:
“In every cross there will be some invitation to new life, to a new way of relating to God, and often in a way that may not be immediately apparent. . . . Just as the Apostles discovered on Easter Sunday, the resurrection does not come when you expect it. It sometimes takes a long time to come at all.”
But it does come, and that’s what makes taking up our cross more than just a grim exercise in self-denial. On the other side of the cross is the resurrection. Wait hopefully for the resurrection in your life.
— Pastor George Van Alstine