A device of torture, shame, and suffering, the image of the cross struck fear into the hearts of first century Jews. Against this backdrop, Jesus tells his disciples, “Pick up your cross and follow me.” And he doesn’t just say to pick it up once; he says we must do this daily if we want to be his disciples.
To pick up our cross, we must accept and embrace the sufferings that God has allowed in our lives, knowing that they can sanctify us. It’s not easy, but the paradox is that we will find joy by picking up our cross and following the savior who took up his own cross for our sake.
Snippet from the Show
The mystery of sacrifice is this: by giving everything we have, we end up walking away with more than anything we could’ve imagined.
“And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
The Image of the Cross
As Christians, we are very familiar with the image of a cross. But have we become too familiar with it? Have we forgotten what it really means? In the days of Jesus, and specifically in Ancient Rome, the cross represented crucifixion, and crucifixion was the most horrific way to die in those days. In fact, the Romans would use the image to instigate fear, threatening it against anyone who opposed Rome. Crucifixion was the process of stripping a person, scourging them at a pillar, and hanging them to suffer and slowly die over the course of several days. It was so horrific, in fact, that the famous Roman orator Cicero said this about the cross:
Pro Rabirio Postumo 16 – “the very word ‘cross’, let them all be far removed from not only the bodies of Roman citizens but even from their thoughts, their eyes, and their ears.”
And now, Jesus is telling his disciples they must follow the same fate? Imagine how shocking that’d be to hear.
Pick Up Your Cross and Follow Me…Daily
So, what’s so special about sacrificial love and redemptive suffering? Why should we follow this call of picking up our cross? Well, when we give ourselves to others in love, we may be losing something, but we end up gaining so much more. In fact, love is the only transaction where we don’t walk away with less than what we bring to the table. Instead, we walk away with more than we could have ever gained on our own. And the cross is the most perfect image and example of sacrificial love.
How to Pick Up Your Cross in Everyday Life
We have several different opportunities every day to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, and they are all rooted in the concept of denying oneself. When we deny ourselves something pleasurable or convenient, we can turn them into sacrifices by doing them out of love of neighbor, and love of God.
Here are some ways we can begin our days with self-denial:
- Wake up on time: It might be more enjoyable to sleep in, but waking up on time and forgoing that extra 30 minutes of sleep for prayer is an easy way to start your day in love of God
- Start your day with a morning offering: Give the morning to God by dropping to your knees in prayer when you get out of bed and praying a morning offering. Here’s an example of a common morning offering prayed by many Catholics around the world:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month. Amen.
- Give into other people’s preferences: Whether it’s in your relationships with friends, family, or spouse, look for small opportunities to choose what the other person wants over what you want.
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- St. John Henry Newman on Self-Denial
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