Today is the first Thursday of Lent. The ashes our Church laid yesterday on our forehead are still fresh; and are meant to remind us of a forty days journey. In the Gospel, Jesus, shows us two routes: the way of the cross he must undergo, and our own way to follow him.
His path is the Way of the Cross and that of death, but also that of His Glory: «The Son of Man must suffer many things (...), and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. » (Lk 9:22). The route we must take is, essentially, the same one Jesus took, and He shows us how to follow it: «If any man would come after Me...» (Lk 9:23).
Hugging his Cross, Jesus complied with the Will of His Father; as for us, carrying ours on our shoulders, we follow him in his Way of the Cross.
The path of Jesus is summarized in three words: suffering, dying, raising from the dead. Three aspects constitute our own footpath too (two attitudes and the essence of our Christian vocation): Self-Denial, taking up our cross every day of our life and following Jesus.
If we do not deny ourselves and do not take up our cross, we are only seeking to affirm and be ourselves; we want «to save our life», as Jesus says. Yet, by wanting to save it, we will lose it. On the other hand, those who, because of Jesus, will not strive to avoid their suffering and the cross, will save their lives. It is the resulting paradox of our following Jesus: «For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?» (Lk 9:25).
Our Lord's words, closing today's Gospel, tremendously shook Saint Ignatius and sparked off his conversion: «What would happen if I would do just as saint Francis and saint Dominic did?». If only, in this Lent, the same words would help us to reach our conversion, too...!