Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34

The following is an excerpt from “Show Me the Way” by Henry Nouwen:

Even though Jesus went directly against the human inclination to avoid suffering and death, his followers realized that it was better to live the truth with open eyes then to live their lives in illusion [of immortality].

Suffering and death belong to the narrow road of Jesus. Jesus does not glorify them, or call them beautiful, good, or something to be desired. Jesus does not call for heroism or suicidal self-sacrifice. No, Jesus invites us to look at the reality of our existence and reveals this harsh reality as the way to new life. The core message of Jesus is that real joy and peace can never be reached while bypassing suffering and death, but only by going right through them.

We could say: “We really have no choice.” Indeed, who escapes suffering and death? Yet there is still a choice. We can deny the reality of life, or we can face it. When we face it not in despair, but with the eyes of Jesus, we discover that where we least expect it, something is hidden that holds a promise stronger than death and that death, therefore, does not have the last word. He invites us to face the painful reality of our existence with the same trust. This is what Lent is all about.

We don’t have a choice to escape suffering and death, but we do have a choice to follow Jesus. We, too, can walk the narrow road with eyes wide open. We can freely undertake whatever suffering or self-sacrifice is necessary while clinging onto the hope that real joy and peace are not only on the other side but right in the midst of the pain because Jesus is there with us. How might you join Jesus with eyes wide open and offer self-sacrificing love to another person this weekend?

By Yvonne Biel