“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Today’s gospel (Mt 16:24-28) has Jesus telling His disciples the conditions of discipleship, this coming on the heels of His first prediction of the passion He will soon endure.  Jesus’ opening statement is given above.  He goes on to say that giving one’s life for His sake will ensure everlasting life; everyone will be repaid based on his conduct in this life,  He closes by telling them that some of them will see Jesus coming in His kingdom.

Now, we tend to think of the hardship of carrying our crosses, whether they be physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological.  It is understandably (from the perspective of this world) considered something undesirable that unfortunately needs to be endured.  But consider the one person in history who actually carried Jesus’ physical cross: Simon of Cyrene (Mk 15:21, Mt 27:32, Lk 23:26).  Each of the synoptic gospels tells us that he was forced to carry the cross to help the severely weakened Jesus make it to His place of execution.  It seems quite likely that Simon, initially being conscripted to this duty, would have been forever changed by the experience, especially upon seeing the fruits of the resurrection (Acts refers to Cyrene and Cyrenians several times).  A lesson for us in that, knowing what we know now, we should try to embrace the cross joyfully when invited to carry it, acknowledging the redemptive value that comes from it as we walk up to Calvary with Jesus.  The payoff is everlasting.

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