At a Primary school where I was parish priest there was a complete overhaul of the Nusery building. As furniture was moved in, one or two nursery staff were uneasy that we were going to put a crucifix on the wall. They thought that the children were too young to be exposed to the horrors of the crucifixion. The governors compromised and a hand painted “Children of the World United” wood cross, made by a cooperative in El salvador, was placed on the wall. Many of us have grown up with the image of Christ crucified on our walls at home. It has been a familiar image of our childhood. In today’s gospel Jesus says: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?”
During Lent we are encouraged to mediate on the passion and death of Jesus and the Stations of the Cross are a familiar and popular devotion. Pope Francis said whoever wishes to know Jesus must gaze upon the Cross, where His glory is revealed. The Cross is not simply a decoration, much less a fashion accessory, but is, instead, “a religious sign to contemplate and comprehend.” He continued, “In the image of Jesus Crucified is revealed the mystery of the death of the Son of God as supreme act of love, font of life and of salvation for the humanity of all time.”
Jesus in today’s gospel is asking us to follow him in this way of loving, a challenging way of love. Perhaps you have a favourite crucifix or image of Christ on the cross that can be an object of mediation. Lord give me the grace to take up my cross. Enable me to love as you loved. Give me the strength and courage to follow you.