“I will suffer and be killed, and then I will be raised.”
Reading this Gospel passage I always wonder what the original disciples must have felt when they heard these words spoken by Jesus. His message is suffering and death and then a strange promise they did not understand.
Furthermore, he tells his disciples, if you want to follow me, the same goes for you. You will suffer. You might even die. And he wasn’t speaking figuratively or metaphorically about suffering and death. Jesus meant what he said. And most all of his apostles and many of his disciples did just that.
It’s difficult to receive these words today in the same way the disciple’s would have heard them. We live in a different time and culture. And we are very blessed to daily enjoy freedom and opportunity, especially when it comes to practicing our faith. But as much as we might wish to, we just can’t tame or tone down the Gospel.
The truth of its message resists our best efforts to domesticate it.
The Cross stands in the way.
The season of Lent is about taking steps along the Way of the Cross.
We do this by sacrificing little things, simple things, things that no one will notice and hardly seem to matter. We make “sacrifices” that could almost seem silly to an outsider. And you know what? They are precious in the sight of heaven. St. Thomas Aquinas said that even the smallest sacrifice, undertaken to worship and honor God, is precious in the sight of the Lord.
That is why we fast from certain foods or daily comforts, it is why we make at least a little extra time for prayer, it is why we serve in ministry and give sacrificially. It is all precious in the sight of the Lord because it is a reflection of the Cross. In a little way, it is a suffering and dying.
Whatever you’ve decided to do this Lent, and anything is of value, choose to do it because you want to follow Christ by carrying a cross for these forty days.
The challenge Jesus sets out is this: Either the Cross stands in your way, or the Cross is your way.