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“Ask a Priest: How Do I Take Up My Cross Daily?”
Q: I am confused about a saying of Jesus in Mark 8-34: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” How do I put that into practice in my everyday life? – R.D.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: Permit me to cite verse 35 for more context: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
A footnote in the New American Bible says:
“[8:34–35] This utterance of Jesus challenges all believers to authentic discipleship and total commitment to himself through self-renunciation and acceptance of the cross of suffering, even to the sacrifice of life itself. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it … will save it: an expression of the ambivalence of life and its contrasting destiny. Life seen as mere self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.”
Taking up one’s cross means accepting the challenges and sacrifices of our path in life.
For a husband and dad, this can mean putting up with the struggles at work, for the sake of supporting a family. For a wife and mom, it can mean patiently dealing with children on a constant basis or supporting a spouse who is having a difficult time at work.
It means charitably dealing with the people who test our patience — the guy who cuts us off in traffic, the rude cashier at the supermarket, the abrasive boss.
It means putting up the sacrifices of living a good Catholic life: making time for prayer, giving alms to the poor, volunteering at the parish, etc.
In short, it means being willing to leave aside our comforts and interests for the sake of God and for others.
We rarely have to seek out challenges and sacrifices. Life has a way of putting them in our path almost daily.
Handled humbly and patiently, the cross can be an instrument for growth in holiness. Jesus by his death on Calvary shows the power the cross in a sublime way.
For more reading, see Pope St. Paul VI’s 1968 speech on the positive value of suffering.
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