February 18, 2015, we began the season of Lent by being signed with ashes after hearing Matthew's Gospel with Jesus' instruction on how to pray, fast and give alms. Our Gospel reading for the next day on Thursday after Ash Wednesday is taken from Luke's Gospel, in which we hear Jesus tell His disciples about His own rejection, death and resurrection, followed by Him telling all,: "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
So often we hear of this cross in our life and shrink away from it because our frail human nature fears suffering. I mean, who would want to suffer? Even God doesn't desire suffering for us, but God does allow it because He is able to draw something good from it. But our suffering, our carrying of the cross daily, is only meritorious for us when we unite our crosses with the cross of Jesus. That is why Jesus tells us about His cross before telling us to bear our cross daily and FOLLOW Him.
But does carrying our cross daily have the meaning that we are to go through life suffering and without peace and joy? Christ came to give us life, and give us life abundantly. We begin that abundant life in our baptism where we are first signed with the cross and claimed by Christ. Carrying the cross daily for us then is following Christ each day and being united with Him in all things, our joys and our sorrows.
Being reminded to carry our cross daily by following Christ on the day after we have ashes placed on our head to remind us we are dust, tells us that we should live each day as though death is imminent. We are to live each day as though it may be our last one, not as a morbid thought, but with the knowledge that each day is a gift of God's love. God is with us in all things every day of our lives. Carrying the cross daily challenges us to be thankful for God's love in all our sufferings, big or small, so that they are transformed by the mystery of Christ's cross in our lives.
On Thursday morning, the cold wind was blowing and the negative wind chill was biting down on any exposed skin. It was tempting to wish the day were over, the weather would warm up, and the snow would stop. But as the snow fell and the wind blew, and we looked up at the grey sky, did we see gloom or did we see the glory of the cross? Did we see another bleak day or was God speaking through the ashes, the cold and the snow about the cross? What is the Word that God speaks to you as we begin this Lent?
May your Lent be fruitful, making room in your heart for Christ and may your prayer, fasting and almsgiving express itself in the service of your brothers and sisters. May whatever cross we carry be united to the cross of Jesus, and may we follow Him each day of our lives.
God bless you abundantly,