The Cross and self-denial
Why would Jesus teach that we must take up our cross? After all, the cross is a metaphor for suffering and agony. This is one of those times when Jesus is giving us a “secret” to the kingdom of God. He is revealing that the commercial culture of every age and His teachings are often in direct conflict. Very often what society demands and what the Church asks of us are not compatible. The society often wants us to be greedy and selfish, whereas Christianity teaches self-denial and love. Learning this and living by Jesus’ teachings rather than those of our culture will indeed feel like taking up a cross and carrying a heavy burden, but ultimately it will lead to happiness. Our secular culture is focused more directly on the instant gratification of all our desires, while the gospels show us how to live our lives according to our relationship with God and our neighbours.
Jesus speaks of self-denial in this Sunday’s Gospel. This means submitting our own will to God. It means becoming who God intends us to be, nothing more and nothing else. It means we allow God’s grace to shape us, no matter how difficult or painful this can sometimes feel. This entails denying that part of ourselves that resists God’s shaping hands (i.e., sin). Quite often, it is tempting to believe that we know better than anyone, including God, what is good for us and so we forge our own paths. But this Sunday’s Gospel tells us that we must always deny ourselves to allow God to configure us so that we can be the best version of ourselves and not a second rate imitation