Fr. Mike’s words on taking up our crosses may come as a relief to many of us. He rejects the “harder is holier” approach, and reminds us that taking up our crosses is ultimately about having more freedom.
Christ says “My yoke is easy, and my is burden light” (Matthew 11:30). God has a particular task for each of us, and taking up our crosses means denying what we want for our lives so that we can do God’s will. After all, that is what we were made to do and the only way to truly be free.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24)
When we think about how to “save” something, we think about keeping it in a safe place. We put our money in a bank and our good china in a cabinet. But when it comes to our lives, Jesus seems to be telling us the opposite: lose it, and you’ll get it back again.
How can that be? Actually, Jesus is exaggerating just a bit so that we will remember this teaching. By asking us to “lose” our lives, Jesus is asking us not to hold on too tightly to our desires and plans so that we are free to embrace his desires and plans for us. Often, this means having to sacrifice something to serve God and his people, but look what we gain: his divine life flowing through us. And that is infinitely greater than anything we may have to give up.
Of course, it isn’t always easy to lose our lives in this way, especially when it comes to the day-to-day choices we face. For example, at the end of a long workday, Netflix may sound more appealing than reading our child a bedtime story. Or maybe we wish that we didn’t have to attend Mass one Sunday so that we could sleep in and have some extra free time. Or how about failing to listen to someone in distress because we are preoccupied with something that seems more important or attractive at the time?
When you find yourself yet again trying to “save” your life by preferring your will over God’s will, reach out to Jesus. You could pray, “Lord, I have committed my life to you, and I give it to you now once again. I trust you to fill me with your own strength and grace so that I can do what you call me to do, not what I’d rather do.”
We are all tempted at times to “save” our lives by tucking ourselves safely away from the demands of loving and serving God and other people. When that happens, remember that the life God promises to give you is so much richer and more joyful than the life you are trying to save. Nothing else can ever compare to it.
Let everything I do this day and in this season of Lent
come from you, be inspired by you.
Help me to remember that nothing is important in my life
unless it glorifies you in some way.
“Tomorrow, I will spend more time in prayer,”
but now my longing meets your love and I want to do it now.
Help me to rely on you for help.
Please, Lord, remind me that “perfection”
isn’t the crazy, “successful” way I try to live my life,
but a perfection of my most authentic, real self.
My “perfection” might be holding my many flaws in my open hands,
asking you to help me accept them.
Let me reach out in this darkness and feel your hand and love there to guide me.
Do something you have been putting off but you know is a good thing to do.