One of the things that makes Lent a somber time of penance and preparation is that it falls under the long shadow of the Cross. The Cross, death due to sin, awaited humanity since the Fall. In the First Reading today Moses exhorts the Israelites to choose life instead of death, blessing instead of curse, and so often, through sin and infidelity, they chose to be cursed and to die in their sins. Fulton Sheen in his work Life of Christ described the shadow of the Cross as covering Our Lord even as he first shed blood on the day of his circumcision as an infant. Our Lord in today’s Gospel encourages his disciples not to flee the cross, but to take it up and follow him, because through his sacrifice on the Cross, in death we’ll pass into eternal life.
Through living our Lenten resolutions we make an extra effort to take up our cross and not flee it, to follow him, since we know his way is the Way of the Cross. Through prayer we give God back a little more of our attention and time; through fasting we crucify ourselves to those little creature comforts that can make us try to cast down our cross; through giving alms we show our love for God through a love for others. In all these things we deny ourselves something and take up our cross, following and imitating Our Lord. If we feel the Lenten grind it means we’ve picked a good Lenten resolution, one that shows we’re willing to lose our lives so that Christ can save them.
Lent is only two days underway. It’s not too late to pick or change your Lenten resolution so that you really carry the cross a little more this Lent and follow Jesus. Everything you feel now as loss will be gain in Christ if you take up your cross and follow him.