Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Thursday after Ash Wednesday

“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving him, and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous, and the LORD, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.”  Deuteronomy 30:15-16

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 8:23

Gerard Manley Hopkins:
It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if being in his grace you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but to take food in thankfulness and temperance gives him glory too. To lift up the hands in prayer gives God glory, but a man with a dung fork in his hand, a woman with a slop pail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.
Source: Seeking Peace and distributed via Plough Publishing

Today, we resort to all kinds of methods to get people into the pews and involved in the community of a parish.  Some churches have free coffee and donuts after Mass.  Activities like bingo might involve the whole family.  Movie nights appeal to teenagers.  However, Jesus did not say pick up your donut and follow me.  He did not say pick up your DVD and follow me. He did not say pick up your bingo card and follow me.  No.  He said to pick up your cross daily and follow me.

The cross was not the gold, silver or bejeweled symbol of jewelers, movie stars and athletes.  Instead, it was the symbol of the Roman executioner.  To properly carry forward the connotation of Jesus today, perhaps St. Luke should be translated, “Pick up your gas chamber and follow me.”  “Pick up your lethal injection and follow me.”  “Pick up your electric chair and follow me.”  Hardly appealing images, Sparky.

Luke had a special way of further emphasizing his points.  When St. Mark recounted the same scene in the life of Jesus, he wrote:  [Jesus] summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mark 8:34

Luke adds the flag “Daily.”  In addition to putting this in context of Jesus suffering, now the daily exercise of Christianity also must mirror that suffering.  The notes in the New American Bible emphasize this further:  Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself.

We cannot commit ourselves to walk in the ways of Jesus if we leave obstacles in the road.  Lent is a time to clear the path of whatever has been causing us to detour along the way.  The NAB goes on to note:  “Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.”

Finally, this is NOT an option.  Jesus does not serve up a menu of ways to be a disciple.  There is ONE way.  One truth.  One light.  “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”  You cannot say that I will do this instead.  You cannot barter your way into the discipline of discipleship. 


What obstacle will you work on removing today?  

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