Thursday after Ash Wednesday      

            Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, tells us that he must first suffer and endure physical death before entering into eternal life through his resurrection. It is a proclamation of his paschal mystery.

            According to Charles Miller, the paschal mystery, put as simply as possible, means that in God’s plan Jesus passed through suffering to joy, through humiliation to glory, through death to life. God’s plan for us is that we should share in this same great mystery.

            Our first contact with the paschal mystery was our baptism. We then went through a form of death with Christ – a death to sin. And through that death we rose with Christ to share in his life of grace. That was the beginning of our Christian vocation.

            But all through our lives we share in the paschal mystery in different ways. The Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is that mystery, for in the Eucharist Jesus makes present once again the reality of his death and resurrection so that we may share in it. All our Lenten penance is a sharing in this mystery. All the pains and sufferings that come to us – physically, mentally, or emotionally – are opportunities to share in the paschal mystery. Jesus tells us that faithfulness and loyalty as his disciples means denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily and willingness to lose our life.

            First, if we wish to follow Christ, we must deny ourselves. To deny oneself connotes a radical renunciation of self and not merely one’s sinful conduct. It is to adopt an attitude that is not self-centered but, rather, one that is other-oriented. It is an attitude of availability to the needs of others.

            Second, if we wish to follow Christ, we must take up our cross daily. Our identity as followers of Christ must be the cross. It may be the cross that we must carry as we strive to have better and more meaningful relationships with others, to bring our family closer to one another and closer to God.

            Third, if we wish to follow Christ, we must be willing to lose our life. We are called to spend our life, not to save and hoard it. We must realize that life is given, not to keep for ourselves, but to spend for others; not to nurture its flame, but to burn it out for Christ and for others. (William Barclay)

            May our Lenten journey lead us to a greater participation in Chris’s paschal mystery – in his suffering, death, and resurrection.

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