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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Today’s Reading | Mark 8:34—9:1         

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.” (NRSV)

Eight years ago, I had opportunity to visit and work with the people of El Salvador on a college service immersion. I always admired the work of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the transformation he welcomed during the latter part of his life when his role as archbishop exposed him to the struggles and suffering of the Salvadoran poor.

My group visited many historic sites that honored Romero and his commitment to the Salvadoran people. Each site depicted an image of the crucifixion. I was used to seeing many images of Jesus—the good shepherd, the teacher, the prophet. But the recurring scene of Jesus on the cross, and the Salvadoran passion for it, confused me.

It wasn’t until we spoke with community leaders who witnessed the Salvadoran civil war that I understood the devotion to the mournful image. The cross, which each of us is asked to take up, represents true discipleship. It means letting go of everything that is easy, normal, and comfortable. It means foregoing what society deems important and instead caring for those whom society forgets. In the case of Romero and the Salvadoran people, it meant ministering to the poor and oppressed who lost their land, families, and, sometimes, their hope.

This central image of Jesus on the cross follows me today. How can I “take up his cross”? There is little to gain from confining myself to everyday conveniences. But there is much to gain by giving up my life and caring for those others may ignore. The cost of this sacrifice is great, but the reward is greater: discipleship, community, and grace.

God, you summon me to give my life, my comforts, and my contentment here on earth to follow Christ and do good works. It means leaving what is “normal” behind and being a true disciple—caring for the lost and forgotten all the days of my life. You provide this amazing gift to us, to look beyond finite comforts, and truly follow your words and works. Let us all be open to this invitation. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens, Director,
Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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