Daily Office Readings for Wednesday of Proper 13: Year 1
“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me:” (Mark 8:34).
Our Lord Jesus calls those further from him, but who wants to be followers of him like those who are close to him, closer to what’s really important. I don’t know if Jesus actually knew he would die on a Roman cross, but he did know that if he kept up his reflection of the love of God with humanity, humanity would kill him.
With this invitation he opens the door to those out there who may have been yearning for a deeper truth about God and eternal life. I think the deepest truth is the call to deny one’s self. The cross carrying is metaphor for any of life’s situations that we must contend with as we journey toward the day we are called to our final home.
The real truth is that most of us (Americans) have far more than we need in terms of what is required for a comfortable life. Most of us have the resources for food, shelter, clothing, communications – (phones), and even transportation – (public or private). How we choose to use the resources at our disposal is where some more self-denial may need to be considered.
I have met people who have come to me for money for food with an expensive hairdo, fancy fingernails, a really nice car or one with detailed work not necessary for basic transportation while living well within an established bus route. I fully agree that it is their business about how they spend their money. But when they don’t have money for food, for themselves or their children, I see little self denial in these professed Christians. And self-denial is not just about how we can spend less on ourselves. Some of our discretionary spending could be used to help someone in more desperate straits than ourselves. This latter is the Christian self-denial.
The cross we carry is the pain we suffer as we maintain our faith to the very end. This could be any of various terminal sicknesses, a financial debt that we may never be able to overcome, and even the knowledge that we are falsely convicted of something we know we didn’t do. It could also be something that we did do but are sorry for and regret for the rest of our lives. God knows our sorrow and feels the pain our cross puts on us. We are not to deny our cross, but instead to take it up and carry it.
In all of this, for ourselves, or against ourselves, we must live to love through it, as Jesus loves us and calls us closer to him.
Let us live to love, rather than just live to live, listening to what the Spirit is saying to, and through the saints of God, while pondering anew what the Almighty can do. John