Friends, our Gospel today from Luke lays out Jesus’ conditions for discipleship: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
How do we overcome pain? How do we attain joy? Not from a Stoic resignation, nor from a Buddhist negation of the self, nor from a Platonic contemplation of the eternal forms, but rather from the sacrifice of the self in love. Jesus is going to Jerusalem in order to give himself away, to sacrifice himself in love for the other—and in this, he will become a source of life to others.
Ronald Knox talked about the sign of the cross this way: the first two gestures form the letter “I” and the next two cross it out. That’s what the cross of Jesus meant and means. The path of discipleship is the path of self-sacrificing love—and that means the path of suffering.