“After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them.” (Mark 8:34-35. Common English Bible).
One day during this past week, while I was praying the Prayer Rope, I experienced an old and painful memory come to the surface. It caused me a great amount of pain, and I found it necessary to stop for a while and let God into this space, and then continue praying as Jesus walked through the emotions of the memory with me. There was no running away from them. Only by giving them over in prayer, was I able to experience some kind of freedom. I had to tell myself “no” to hanging on to it. Until that moment, I had no idea how much of my life I “saved” that I allowed to control me.
The words of Jesus about saying no, carrying our crosses and losing our lives for the sake of the Good News are quite contradictory. The contradiction comes with the notions of letting go, taking up to carry and letting go. It is by letting go of the many things we cling to, taking up the crosses in our lives as they are and let God in to help us through them, and then let go again. People who are diagnosed with some kind of cancer know all about what it is to let go of things as they were; pick up the cross of the cancer and face it as is to do what needs to be done to take care of it; then let go. They let go, because they know just how uncertain life is. People with cancer often teach us courage like no one else can. Even when the moment comes that their battle is lost because of death, their courage to let go and trust God to take care of them after death is stays with us for the rest of our lives.
As contemplatives, we know that we must say no to ourselves about hanging on to things and/or pretending they are not there. When something grabs our interior attention, the worst thing to do is to push it away or pretend it is not there. To say no to ourselves, is to let God into those spaces and carry those crosses with Jesus, so that we can ultimately let go of the “life” we were building in our false-sense of self, to find salvation through the love of God in Christ. It is when we let go, pick up our crosses, and surrender ourselves to God that our search for union with God makes progress.
“Renounce yourself to follow Christ.” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.27).
“Abba Hyperichius said, “The true service of a monk is obedience and if he has this, whatever he asks will be given him and he will stand with confidence before the Crucified. For that was how the Lord went to his cross, being made obedient even unto death.” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.80).
What might the Holy Spirit be asking you to let go of, to pick up your cross and let go again?
Peace be with all who enter here.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS
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