“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
That’s Jesus’ message from the Gospel today. That is the struggle we all go through, bearing our crosses, the crosses that God himself has given to us. For me, I want to learn to love my cross. Jesus loved his cross…a lot. He loved it because he loved the one he bore it for…me. I, too bear my cross for someone…Jesus. My cross doesn’t save him, but I bear it for him none the less because he asks me to. And so, I must learn to love it. I must learn to deny myself for him.
But I must…we must…bear our burdens, our difficulties, our sinful inclinations in a way that honors God and our dignity. It’s important, though, to keep in mind that we will not carry our crosses perfectly. Failure will occur. Each of us will fall sometime during Lent. Perhaps we’ll fall in the first few days, perhaps we’ll make it nearly to the end. In any event, it is of utter importance to not despair, to not break communion with God in our failures. Rather, we turn immediately to God and say, “Lord, here I am, I fell again. I need your grace to pick me up.” Don’t let setbacks destroy your faith or wreck your relationship with God. Get up and keep walking.
Whoever gives up his life for my sake in this world will find it again for ever in the next, says the Lord.
Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary, Thursday after Ash Wednesday