Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Taking the Gospel to prayer
Jesus doesn't mince any words today. He is clear that He knows that suffering is in His future. Notice, that message is directed to the disciples. In the context of the whole chapter, He has just asked the disciples who they think He is. Ultimately, Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah of God. Jesus tells them not to tell that to anyone.
The beginning of this passage, then, is a private conversation. Perhaps Jesus is trying to assure those closest to Him that He knows what lies ahead. Or maybe He wanted them to understand why He wanted their silence concerning His identity. Whatever the motivation, this part of the scene is for their revelation.
But the message of picking up the cross daily is directed to the larger crowd. He is speaking to people who are at different levels of interest in His message. There are those who desire a cure, others merely curious because they have heard stories and want to see for themselves, and still others who are truly seeking the Messiah. He tells them all that following Him will involve daily sacrifice. The passage concludes, though not included today in the proclamation, with the assurance: "Truly I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (Lk 9:27)
Why all of the background info today? So that we might recognize ourselves in this story as we enter into Lent. Who is Jesus to us? Wherever we stand on the continuum of faith, following Jesus requires a response from us. How are we going to use the next 40 days? What must we lose...bad habits, shuffling time for prayer or spiritual study, weighing our pride in a broken relationship...in order to gain a deeper relationship with the Lord?
In the words of Ash Wednesday: "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."