The Rev. Patrick Keyser
Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
The Church has invited and called us to keep a holy Lent, and for many of us a discipline of giving up or taking something on is an important way to observe this holy time. Jesus offers us an important reminder and a lens through which we must understand these disciplines and indeed the entirety of our Lenten journey. He tells us that if we want to follow him we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily, so that, in the great paradox of the faith, we might lose our life in order to save it. Our Lenten disciplines, then, are not means of punishing ourselves so that we suffer, nor are they simply means by which we can adopt a healthier lifestyle or diet. No, our Lenten disciplines are meant to draw us away from the things that distract us so that we might instead draw closer to Christ and grow more and more into the people God created us to be.
Jesus teaches us that we must choose to take up our cross every day. Discipleship is an ongoing, life-long process of growth. So today, let us choose to follow, and may God give us grace for the days ahead, that we may again take up our cross and follow wherever Jesus leads.
Lord Jesus, give us the grace to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow you, that as you lead us we may grow daily in knowledge and love of you, and be transformed more and more into your likeness. Amen.