Yesterday we celebrated Ash Wednesday by receiving ashes in the sign of the cross on our foreheads. The gospel asked us to pray, to fast and to be generous but always to do this without the usual positive feedback that we seem to need. Today’s readings encourage us to trust in Our Lord and his message even though we don’t always understand the difficulty of this.
“Take up your cross daily and follow me.” This is an analogy describing the difficult things in our lives as “crosses” which we must bear. Whether we are young or old there are times when we suffer setbacks: illnesses or some other negative we would wish had not happened. Then one is apt to hear, “Well, be strong and carry your cross.”
The analogy, of course, is with the passion of Jesus as described in the gospels. He is unjustly accused and condemned to death – a death on a cross which, according to Roman customs, he had to carry.
Our Lenten devotion “The Way of the Cross” which is often celebrated in parishes on Fridays in Lent is instructive here. Yes, Jesus took up his cross, but the second part of his statement is important for us: “and follow me.”
In the “Way of the Cross” we notice that Jesus accepts the cross, falls three times but also, in the midst of his agony and misery, reaches out to others. He meets his mother, then accepts the solace of Veronica by gracing her with his image on her cloth, and then comfort the woman of Jerusalem.
We need also in the midst of our difficulties to follow Jesus as we take up our cross by continuing to care for and help others and to be willing to accept the gift of help from others – Jesus accepted the help from Simon of Cyrene.
This short gospel today is filled with meaning for us as we all have crosses to bear. At the beginning of Lent let us attend to how we treat others, think about them and judge them. Getting along with others often is one of our chronic crosses. We all have crosses and how well we bear them is based on how we try to follow Jesus.
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