Luke 9:22-25 (NRSVCE)
“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
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. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
Yesterday, I spoke about the importance of the practice of sacrificing something from our lives for Lent. Whether it be candy, television, social media, or even something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, this practice of giving things up can reap incredible spiritual benefits if approached in the right way.
Today, in Jesus’s own words, we hear why. We are to take up our crosses daily, “for those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Daily. This same passage appears in Mark and Matthew (Matt. 16:24, Mk. 8:34), but Luke is the only one who says “daily”. We are called at all times to sacrifice for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of God. Anyone can sacrifice for a day, or a week, or even for the 40 days of Lent. But Jesus doesn’t say to sacrifice some of the time, or even most of the time. He says to do it daily. We all have our own crosses to bear, and in this penitential season we add a little bit more to that weight, all for the sake of God and for our eternal souls.
“What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” Really think about this. We are blessed enough to live in a time of abundance. I can have any television show, movie, book, or music I want at the push of a button. I don’t even have to leave the house to get any kind of food I want, because Uber Eats will bring it right to my door. And anything else I could possibly desire is in my hands within two days through Amazon Prime. It is so easy in this day and age to focus on “gaining the world”, on building our collection of stuff, on indulging in things which we can’t possibly need.
It’s not bad to indulge, don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to start boycotting Netflix or anything. But where in all of this do we leave room for Christ? Do we pencil him in between Game of Thrones reruns? Maybe right after I beat this level in Mario? Oh, but I’m a little hungry, so Christ will have to wait until after I’ve had a few Cheetos. No, you turn off Mario, your put down the Cheetos, and you instead spend some time in prayer. That’s the point of our Lenten practice. Take something in your life which is occupying your mind or time and remove it from the equation. Make some room in your life for Christ. And don’t let that stop once Lent is over. Keep doing it! Take up your cross daily!
Jesus said “those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” That doesn’t mean you have to be a martyr. Sacrifice in your own way, and by doing so fill those gaps with Christ! That’s what Lent is all about!