Good morning, happy Thursday, and many blessings.
The beginning of today’s Gospel (Luke 9:22-25) is stark. Jesus informs his disciples that the Son of Man will undergo great suffering, be rejected by the temple officials, be killed, and then be raised up on the third day. Put yourself in the disciples’ shoes. What would be your reaction to these words? I assume the disciples were shaken by what Jesus said, yet they also had heard the many complaints and threats against Jesus. They must have known that He was in danger.
Did they realize that they also might be in danger? After all, they were His followers and friends. Were some of them tempted to return home to a normal life, to safety? These thoughts may have flown through their minds, yet they had lived with Jesus. They were his friends. They loved Him and believed in Him, but were they also afraid for themselves and for their families?
Jesus warns the disciples that following Him will not be easy. There will be dangers and threats. If they do choose to follow Him, each day and every day they must take up their crosses and follow in His footsteps. Imagine how sobering it must have been to hear Jesus utter those words. When the disciples initially decided to follow Jesus, they were enthusiastic and eager to learn. They did not realize that following Him might become dangerous!
Taking up one's cross is not a matter of simply putting up with the headaches and ordinary troubles of life, but of not being ashamed of Jesus, and being prepared to be true followers with all the dangers, even possible martyrdom, that that implies. Trying to save one's own skin by denying Jesus will only result in the loss of eternal life, of intimate union with God.
Jesus states clearly that his project to save the world will end in disaster for himself. I sit with him in silence and with gratitude that he does not simply give up and abandon humankind to its malice.
At the start of Lent, Jesus puts before us the central events of his passion, death and resurrection.
Life holds so many challenges - the losses and daily disappointments that come my way. Do I just despair, fall apart, give up, or do I rise to them, shoulder my crosses with courage, knowing that Jesus shares the load, thereby filling me with deep contentment, even joy?
Jesus is telling us today what he also told his disciples thousands of years ago. We also are his disciples in this world of ours – and the dangers are real. If we commit ourselves and follow Jesus, it won’t be an easy path at times. There will be many gifts but there will also be many difficulties. Following Jesus is not easy. The gift is Jesus promises to be at our side always. He will walk with us, strengthen us, console us, and give us His peace. Is this enough for us? What path will we choose?