Hunkering down

Today’s Gospel has one of the most important statements that Christ made:

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke: 9:23)

This is from Luke chapter 9 and the context is important to fully understand the importance of what Christ has said. The 12 disciples have been following Christ for a while now. They’ve seen the miracles. But yet, one can imagine, the “newness” of being a disciple has worn off. Christ send THEM out to exercise demons and cure diseases. They come back amazed, knowing that the powers they yielded did not come from themselves but from Christ.

Then, just when you think they’d understand how powerful Christ was, something amazing happens. The crowds are persistently following Christ and have no food. The disciples ask Christ to send them home so that they can eat. Christ then amazes all of them by multiplying the little food that the disciples have to feed the thousands who are following Him. Everyone, disciples included, were amazed.

It is then that Christ asks the disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

You can imagine that these overwhelmed disciples are ready to say that he is anything he wants to be, and they do. Peter recognizes Him as the Messiah, as the Son of Man.

But then Christ throws them a curveball. Instead of telling them how wonderful He is or rejoicing in their recognition of His divinity, He admonishes them:

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Kind of a letdown, no?

What a challenge that was to the disciples and to us all. If you want to follow Christ, you must be ready to sacrifice more. I envision God saying, “You think you’re up for this? You think you’ve got it under control? You haven’t seen ‘nothing yet. Get ready to hunker down because we’re just starting!”

Today I’m in my second day of fasting and I am HUNGRY. I didn’t eat anything Wednesday and had my first meal of Lent today at Lunch. As I sat down to eat my taco salad, the salad that usually leaves me stuffed, it looked particularly small even though the cafeteria lady seemed to pile it unusually high (she must have seen the hunger in my eyes). I thought to myself, “this tiny thing has to last me until tomorrow until dinner!?!” Nevertheless I wolfed it down hoping that it would at least leave me filled for an hour or two. But I hadn’t even gotten up from the table and I was already hungry.

It is at these moments when remembering Christ admonision is important. I must remember that to follow Christ is to deny myself even in physical hunger. It means that we have to dig deep to find that strength to follow Him, no matter how hungry we may get.

All praises be to God for all the strength that He gives us! It’s time to hunker down.

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