Charlie Ducey ‘16
Before Jesus issues this command to take up the weight of one's own cross, he performs the miracle of feeding the 5,000, and grants his disciples authority to cast out demons and cure diseases. We see both sides of the Christian life here: the miraculous blessings and gifts bestowed by God's grace on one side, and the burden of the cross on the other.
Christ's paradoxical message indicates that these two sides—the self-denial as well as the blessings—cohere into a single calling. He speaks of how those who lose their life for his sake will indeed save their life, while those who dedicate themselves to their own whims and wants will lose their life, however much they seek to build it up with worldly riches.
Jesus is calling us to a life of commitment to his message as exemplified in his very person. It is a powerful call, for being a Christian consists not only in sitting in air-conditioned churches. Jesus invites us to follow the route of his life, from his ministry to his passion and the carrying of the cross. With the weight of the cross, however, the Christian also carries the promise of new life.
Leading up to Easter last year, I felt the weight of the cross in a literal way while taking turns shouldering a 9-foot-long cross on a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Walsingham, England. It was no picnic to haul that cross, but for me, the fellowship of exertion and prayer enlivened the whole journey. The goodness of the Christian life is not only found in the end-goal of heaven—it also can be discovered even within and beneath the very crosses we bear.
As we enter into the season of Lent, we can remember that salvation comes to us in both the sacrifices and the gifts of the Christian life.