by Father Mike Stubbs
Many people start their day with a regular routine.
When they wake up, they take a shower, shave if they’re a man, put on makeup if they’re a woman, get dressed, maybe eat some breakfast or at least grab some coffee, and hopefully spend some time in prayer. It’s their regular routine for each day.
Today’s Gospel reading, Lk 9:18-24, invites us to include something else in that daily routine. Jesus says: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day and follow in my steps.”
“Take up his cross each day.” In other words, it’s not a one-time event. It’s part of our daily routine.
The Gospels of Matthew and Mark supply parallels to this passage, almost word for word, where Jesus talks about taking up the cross as part of the requirements to be his follower (Mt 16:24, Mk 8:34). But only Luke adds the words “each day.” That puts a different twist on Jesus’ words.
That’s really important. Otherwise, the disciples might have easily supposed that they also would have to share in Jesus’ fate and be crucified themselves.
That did happen to some of the early Christians. The Roman emperor Nero crucified a large number of Christians, including St. Peter, in the year 64.
Crucifixion was all too common in the ancient world. It was the preferred form of corporal punishment meted out to slaves and foreigners. In contrast, Roman citizens had the privilege of being executed by beheading, a swifter and less painful way to die.
Consequently, Christians facing persecution might have possibly expected that they would be crucified. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant, when he talked about taking up the cross to follow him. That would be a one-time event. And then it would be over.
But here, the Gospel insists that we take up our cross each day. What does that mean?
Taking up the cross means making a commitment to sacrificial love, the same love that Jesus showed by his death on the cross. And carrying the cross means living out that commitment.
Sunday’s Gospel makes it clear that we are to do that constantly, as part of our life as a follower of Jesus Christ. We are to pour out our lives, because of our love for others. That is to be our purpose in living. And we are to do that every day.