As I was reading the Gospel this morning, I was struck by a single word: daily. In the passage, Peter has just correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, but now Jesus must redefine for the disciples what that means. Being the Messiah doesn’t mean triumph, liberation and power — at least not as they expected them — but loss, sacrifice and death by abuse of power. And being the Messiah’s man doesn’t mean the best seats at the feasts, but rather taking up one’s cross and following him on his humble path. And this is where Luke sneaks in that word, daily: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9.23).
Life isn’t about big pronouncements or grand gestures. It’s about the choices, big and small, we make every day. It’s about how we respond to the challenges and opportunities each day brings us. We humans don’t do ‘today’ well. We prefer to define ourselves by the glories or traumas of the past or focus, whether expectantly or anxiously, on our imagined futures. And yet, ‘today’ is all we have. As John Donne reminds us, “what grace soever [God] afford me to-day, yet I should perish to-morrow if I had not had to-morrow’s grace too.” We are all living one day at a time. Today is all we have.
Today is the only day when we can choose. It’s the only day we can follow God’s call. We can’t take up our cross tomorrow. We can’t rest contented that we took it up yesterday or change the fact that we didn’t. Today — each ‘today’ we are blessed to see — is all we have.
Jesus understood that today is hard for us. That’s why he kept on teaching about it. He tells us to take up our cross daily. He tells us not to worry about tomorrow because today brings enough cares and concerns on its own. He tells us to ask God for our daily bread. If we see it in this bigger picture, the idea of taking up our cross daily becomes a little less daunting. For it means that we don’t need to take up tomorrow’s cross — whatever that may be. And more importantly, there is bread — there is grace — for today.
Lent, like life itself, is a long journey. And as we embark on it, I was glad this morning to be reminded to focus on today, the cross it will bring, yes, but also the grace it will bring.
May God grant us all our daily grace to take up our daily cross. Amen.