Mar. 2, 2017: Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Scripture: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23)
Reflection: Moses says, “Choose life” (Deut 30: 19)! Who wouldn’t? The Holocaust of World War II and the genocides in our day have produced incredible stories from people like Walter Ciszek, SJ, and Immaculée Ilibagiza of choosing to live, even amid impossible horror. Yet Jesus tells us that we must choose more than just breathing in and out. True life carries a high price: “Take up your cross,” not once but every day, and “follow me.”
Long repetition has narrowed the meaning of this familiar exhortation down to bearing life’s sufferings, and perhaps even adding to them voluntarily. Certainly patient endurance under pains great and small is an essential dimension of Jesus’ cross, but it is only a slice of the larger reality of Jesus’ life. He carried that bar of rough wood on shoulders already torn and bleeding only in the last hours of his life. But he bore the reason for it all his life: unyielding love for every human being, even his enemies.
That burden surely wore him down: he spent hours under a hot sun teaching, healing, and casting out demons. Every time, he could have said that power went out from him (cf. Mark 5: 25-34). But he never took a day off. Exhausted and resting by a Samaritan well, he took on a sinner in need (John 4: 4-42). Perhaps hungry himself after hours of preaching and curing the sick, he multiplied bread for the throng instead of going for lunch (Matt 14: 13-21). Thirsty, he even refused drugged wine on the cross (Matt 27: 34).
Love that takes responsibility for others was his lifelong burden—and he shouldered it gladly for the sake of the joy before him (Heb 12: 2), the joy of knowing humanity was safe at last under the shadow of the cross.
Choose life? How? Take up the weight, light or heavy, of responsibility for others’ good. Walter Ciszek knew that. Immaculée Ilibagiza knew that. Because they knew that survival without love is worthless. It costs the erosion of one’s own soul. They learned it from Jesus.
Meditation: When does the burden of love chafe you? What most tempts you to lay down genuine responsibility for the sake of self-indulgence?
-By Genevieve Glen, Daily Lent Reflection 2017