Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me…’ Luke 9:23
Now a lot of people seem to have the wrong idea about what picking up your cross means. They seem to think that it is about suffering. So much so that one person, who didn’t follow the GPS and got lost said, “We are bearing our cross today!” No, suffering because you weren’t paying attention has nothing to do with it. Suffering of any kind has nothing to do with it. Martyrdom has nothing to do with it; if it did then Jesus would not have said pick up your cross daily. So, obviously something else is going on.
What it means to pick up your cross daily is to die to the self and live for God. Jesus could have walked away from the cross but He lived for God the Father and that is why He couldn’t walk away. It was that love of God that made Him not be able to walk away. He lived for the Father.
We need to die to ourselves every moment of everyday so that we can live for God.
1. Put God First, be faithful You want to show God how much you love Him, but you have a deadline at work and twelve thousand emails to answer, not to mention paying the bills, remembering Aunt Agatha’s Birthday and little Billy’s First Holy Communion. You just don’t even know where to start. It feels like your entire life is engineered to stop you from being the person that God wants you to be. It seems impossible to be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect. BUT, Jesus wouldn’t have told us to do it if it could not be done. So, what do we do? What can we do?
Seek God. Slow it down. The next thing you do — do good. Do something that is good because you know that God wants you to do. Seek Him by doing what you know to be right.
“I am the Lord thy God, you shall not have any gods before me.” Make God your God, not money, not power, not prestige. What do you spend your time and effort on? God? Something else?
If you mess up and sin, repent and ask for forgiveness. If you didn’t, celebrate — you are closer already!
Seek God first. It’s like a boat sailing into the dock. If you focus on the spot of land you are trying to get to, you will get there far more easily than you would be if you are looking around everywhere.
2. Avoid Sin One part of being faithful isn’t just not sinning but also avoiding what makes us sin. If we avoid that it makes it easier to be faithful. This is called the near occasion to sin. You need to avoid the near occasion to sin.
Say your sin is the sin of lust and you just can’t help hooking up with random people. Now, when do you do that? Oh, I just meet them at the bar and one drink leads to another and you know. Okay, easy. Don’t go to the bar! Going to the bar is your near occasion to sin. Say your sin is greed and you just have to go to the mall and get new shoes oh and a new outfit to go with the shoes oh, and a lamp for the living room and some of those cute little knick knacks that just everyone is obsessed about right now and and and and… Your near occasion to sin is going to the mall. Don’t go to the mall! Think about it. What action do you do that puts you in jeopardy of sinning? We all have our sins that are habitual and we hate ourselves for them. The good news is that habits can be broken.
So, don’t sin. Don’t near occasion to sin. And lastly, don’t cause others to sin. There was this psychological experiment in which they studied what is called, “Implied Permission.” On a hot summer day, they put out a cooler of ice and a bunch of drinks on a busy sidewalk. People walked by, looked at the cooler, looked around to see who had left it and walked on. No one stole a drink. Then one of the experimenters walked with the crowd stopped and took a drink from the cooler. He opened it and had a sip then moved on. People saw him do it and suddenly everyone was taking drinks because of implied permission. Well, if it was okay for him to do it, then it’s okay for me. Everyone of those people technically stole from the experimenters. Why? Because they saw someone else steal so therefore it was okay. Do not live your life in a way that causes others to sin because of your actions. People think that if it is okay for you then it is okay for them.
3. Read the Bible Now, I know what you are thinking because I have thought the same thing. The Bible is so long and boring. The Old Testament is stupid and I already know about Jesus, they read that part in church so I don’t need actually need to read it myself. Wrong! You, like me, know the Bible on the kid level. We know the stories. We know who did what, as if it was an episode of Star Trek. We need to start reading the Bible like adults. Saint Ignatius had an idea. You read the scene over, look for the meaning, read again, and again. Read it a total of four times and be there in your imagination. What did it look like? Was there a smell, dust, flowers? Live it and see God’s love in it.
4. Pray and Meditate Praying is the talking part. Meditating is the listening part. You need both to have a conversation.
5. Do God’s Will But what is God’s Will? He has already revealed it to you. What? I don’t know about you, but He hasn’t revealed anything to me. Wrong! God has revealed everything to you already!
He has revealed the Commandments. He has revealed the Beatitudes. He has revealed the entire Bible. He has revealed Jesus and all of His teachings.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
You know His will. You know what you are supposed to be doing. Just do it.
6. Release our desires What is it that we desire? You know some things are easy to realize that what we desire is not in alignment with God. We desire a nice car, a big house, the latest fashion, power, money, fame. That’s easy to understand that those desires are not His desires but ours. Other desires are not so hard to tell. Say, we want to send our children to a Catholic School or Christian School. Yes, God wants us to educate our children and not have the curriculum slanted towards worldly things. But does He want you to steal to get them into that school? Probably not. Discerning which desires are yours and which are His is a task of almost monumental proportions — until you look at it. You can pray and ask God for guidance, you can discern His Will through the scriptures and, most importantly, you can know that God will be with you always.
For example, there is the old move from the 1940’s called the Bishop’s wife, obviously not about a Catholic bishop. Spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen it yet. Anyway, there is this bishop who is trying to raise money to build a great cathedral to God, to show the glory of God. An angel comes to help him. The bishop thinks he is doing God’s will but the angel shows him over the course of the movie that it is not the cathedral that God wants instead He wants the bishop to realize the value of the family he has. Great Christmas movie — Cary Grant, enough said.
Well, have we started to lift that cross — a tiny bit maybe? I hope so. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 9:23 you have to pick up your cross daily. It’s not a one time deal. You can’t say, “Yeah, I understand the concept. So, I’m good, right?” Wrong! You have to do it daily, hourly, every moment. You need to get out of the way of yourself so that you can deny yourself. You need pick up your cross, to die to yourself in order to live for God. You need to focus on Jesus in order to Follow Him.
You have to live moment by moment in this. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait til tomorrow. You are not guaranteed tomorrow! You are not guaranteed the next hour. Do it now! Start now! God is waiting for you! He wants to smile and pour forth His Love to you saying “There’s my baby girl!” or “That’s my boy!” He is our loving Father and He wants us to be happy.
Peace be with you.