“Then He [Jesus] said to them: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” — Luke 9:23
On Feasts of the Church that commemorate the holy and life-giving Cross, I try to spend some quiet time pondering the meaning of our Lord’s words to “take up one’s cross” in the here and now?
My first thought is that crosses come in many forms: poverty, losses, injustices, loneliness, betrayals, illnesses, and other hardships. Accepting these circumstances in one’s life without complaint and despondency translates into “taking up one’s cross.”
Another thought is that “taking up one’s cross” means self-denial. The majority, if not all people, want to experience self-fulfillment, but only a minority choose self-denial. The paradox is that the only path to fulfillment is self-denial. Our Lord tells us that there is no other way. I understand self-denial as making an intentional effort to avoid things that are temporarily pleasurable but are eternally painful, namely sin.
I also relate the words of “taking up one’s cross” with pain. This thought may initially cause one to wince; but stop and think about it… any great achievement requires concerted effort along with pain. We even have a common saying “no pain, no gain.” Athletes suffer pain in the training of their bodies. Likewise, spiritual athletes must be willing to suffer temporal pain for eternal gain.
Finally, “taking up one’s cross” means dying to self everyday. How? By allowing our difficult circumstances to transform us into being more Christ–like. When we experience the pain of an insult, disappointment, suffering, physical challenge, failure, injustice, or hardship, it’s an opportunity to die to pride, die to ego, die to sin, die to self. And if we die to self, we come alive in grace. We transform the present sufferings and inconveniences into love by turning to God in trust, believing good can come out of suffering… as it did on Golgotha.
So these are my thoughts regarding the meaning to “take up one’s cross” on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, commemorating the finding of the Life-giving Cross in the year 326 and its recovery from Persia in 628.
May God grant us the strength and grace to endure all so that we may be ever thankful and faithfully proclaim “Glory to God for all things!” Through the prayers of your Most-Holy Mother and by the power of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us and save us. Amen!