Taking up the cross

    February 15, 2024

    Today’s first reading recalls Moses telling the people that before them stood life and death, a blessing and a curse. He implored them to choose life. We too have life and death put before us: life with Christ or life (death) apart from Christ. Choosing life means loving the Lord, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. The Gospel passage explains exactly what this means.

    It’s important to place this passage in its proper context. Jesus’ words come right after an exchange between him and Peter when Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter replies, “The Christ of God.” Jesus then tells the apostles that following him requires denying one’s self and daily taking up one’s cross. This is our call as well — self-denial and embracing the cross each and every day. We are called to carry on Jesus’ mission.

    When we think of Jesus’ mission, we may recall his teaching and healing, preaching and working miracles. These are, in fact, key points of his ministry. Yet underlying these activities is his ultimate ministry — his suffering, death and resurrection. Our Lenten journey gives us the opportunity to enter into this ultimate ministry.

    During Lent, we journey to and with Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection by daily denying ourselves and taking up the cross. Yet our journeys go one step beyond simply taking up the cross, as we are challenged to carry the cross as we discern how to choose life — to choose the blessing of walking with Jesus through his suffering and death to share in the glory of his resurrection.

    May our Lenten journey be a journey in which we surrender and die to self so that we can share in the resurrection and the promise of life, eternal life.

    Deacon Paul Kipfstuhl is the Director of the Social Action Office for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, covering the southwestern part of the diocese. He is also assigned as Deacon to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Medina, Ohio.

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