Then [Jesus] said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23 NRSV).
The Season of Lent takes us all through a journey of meditating on the Cross. The day after Ash Wednesday, The Episcopal Church takes us to the Gospel of Luke 9:18-25 where we find the words I have quoted above. The words, “deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” seem to strike all of us a little differently. Each of us have a different kind of cross, in a unique place where God intersects with us.
As Christians we believe that it was on the Cross that God reconciled with humankind through Jesus Christ. We also believe that God identified with every form of human suffering when Christ gave Himself for us on the Cross.
Thomas Keating tells us in The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience that on the Cross, Jesus even gave up His relationship with God. When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22:1), He gave up his relationship with God, his Father, and embraced that relationship through faith alone. Jesus had to cling to God with purity of heart; as in, seeking union with God for God’s sake, looking for nothing else in return. Such is why Jesus is exalted through His humility. (See Philippians 2:5-11).
Our contemplation on what it means to deny ourselves and take up our cross challenges us to seek union with God with a total abandonment of everything else and to only want God.
The two most important words during Lent and/or any form of contemplative prayer are, “let go!” Letting go is a great way to deny ourselves and take up our cross.
How is Jesus asking you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him?
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB