At the climax of 1986’s The Three Amigo’s, out of work silent-film star Lucky Day, played masterfully by comedian Steve Martin, makes an impassioned speech to the citizens of Santo Poco in attempt to rally them for their upcoming confrontation with infamous bandit, El Guapo.
In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!
This is kind of what I think Jesus might have been saying when he asked his disciples to take up their cross.
Certainly there is more than just an air of foreshadowing going on in this week’s story. Jesus has not been subtle in telling his disciples what fate was to befall him. While he didn’t mention the exact method of his execution, given either the ubiquity of crucifixion in imperial Rome or the fact that most folks who read the Gospels for the first time already knew the basic story, everyone knew he was talking about the cross. This is, in part, what makes St. Peter so angry and develops the confrontation at the beginning of this week’s reading.
But, what does Jesus mean when he turns the tables on his followers in the later part of the story and declares that “if any want to become [his] followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me”? Does he actually mean that we should all be prepare or even expect to die for our faith? Perhaps. But even Jesus had to know that this wouldn’t be the best way to bring people into the fold. As I discussed in the post on martyrs, God’s desire is not for our death, but rather for our life.
I’m guessing, therefore, that Jesus must have had something more personal and metaphorical in mind . Of course he did. The trick about picking up *the actual* cross and following Jesus is that it’s a scene that only plays once. Whether or not our walk of faith ends in an untimely and unjust death, Jesus’ invitation must also have something to do with our day-to-day lives.
Thus, each of us must find a time or times to reflect upon what our “cross” might actually me. To borrow some phrases, “for some, shyness might be their cross. For others, a lack of education might be their cross. For some, an instrument of unjust death may be their cross.”
During this season of Lent, I pray that God may grant you the grace to pick up your own cross, no matter what form it takes, and follow Jesus.