In the beginning

Column: Taking up the cross is a daily obligation

by Father Mike Stubbs

When some significant event happens in our life, we can often remember very distinctly where we were and what we were doing with great detail.

For example, when I learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated, I was sitting at my desk at Sacred Heart Grade School in Bonner Springs. It was an overcast November day. We sat there in stunned disbelief. Some of the girls started to cry.

All three synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke — provide an account of Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah, followed by Jesus’ first prediction of his passion. It is an important event in the life of Jesus. They all wish to deal with it.

At the same time, they include different details in reconstructing the setting for that incident. For example, Matthew and Mark locate the scene at Caesarea Philippi, modern-day Banyias, in northern Galilee. On the other hand, Luke does not mention the geographic site in his version, which we will hear as Sunday’s Gospel reading, Lk 9:18-24. Instead, Luke sets the scene by writing: “Once when Jesus was praying in solitude.” For Luke, the time and the place do not matter as much as the activity in which Jesus was engaged. That is the detail which stands out for Luke.

Luke focuses on the prayer, which set the tone for Jesus’ entire life. In other words, Luke is not only singling out a detail from a specific event in Jesus’ life, he is also holding up prayer as an example for Christians to follow. Just as Jesus spent time in prayer in order to prepare for important events, so also his disciples should spend time in prayer to sustain them in their daily lives.

That brings us to the other way in which Luke’s account of this incident differs from those of Matthew and Mark. After making the first prediction of his passion, Jesus instructs the disciples on the necessity of taking up their cross to follow him. In Luke’s version, the word “daily” is inserted: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

The addition of the word “daily” puts an interesting twist on these words of Jesus. According to Luke, taking up the cross is not limited to a one-time decision. Instead, it means a daily commitment on the part of the Christian to follow Christ. It becomes part of one’s spirituality, one’s attitude toward life.

That daily commitment to take up the cross depends upon daily prayer. No wonder luke disregards the geographic location and the specification of the day, to instead begin his account with Jesus’ prayer. Luke wants us also to begin with prayer, every day. Only then will we be able to take up our cross.

About the author

Fr. Mike Stubbs

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