For ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, while you heard his words coming out of the fire. And because he loved your ancestors, he chose their descendants after them. He brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, giving you their land for a possession, as it is still today. So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.
Psalm 77:12-16, 21
I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord;
I will remember your wonders of old.
I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have displayed your might among the peoples.
With your strong arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
A friend of mine recently told me about how he began using a meditation app on his phone everyday to help focus his thoughts and de-stress. The idea behind meditation being helping people focus on one thing at a time to become aware of their thoughts and emotions and become more intentional with their thought processes. In today's scriptures, the psalmist says "I will meditate on all your work,
and muse on your mighty deeds." He does not simply focus on arbitrary things or subjects or actions of no significance, but on the deeds and the works of the Lord. He directs his energy on trying to understand God better.
In Deuteronomy, we read about God's mighty actions and favor for the Israelite people. We read about God's might signs and wonders and terrifying displays of power He had never shown before to another people before. He sent pillars of cloud to comfort them and pillars of fire to protect them. He split open the sea for their travel. He wrote on stone tablets to give them a law. He sent them food each and every day. Even when they complained against him, He made a way for them to repent and be healed. Yet, despite all of God's actions, we know the Israelites still doubted God and were not faithful or grateful.
In the gospel today, Jesus tells the disciples that anyone wanting to follow Him must take up their cross and lose their lives for His sake. Jesus asks us to take up our crosses and deny ourselves not to be mean or make us feel bad for being selfish, but because of the promise and the new life after the cross. After Jesus went to the cross, He rose again forever conquering sin and death. God lead the Israelites out into the desert, where they grumbled against God and suffered despite His signs and wonders, to bring them into the promised land.
When we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we choose to put to death the things that concern us. We die to the pleasures we would like to have, like particular foods to eat, clothes to wear, places to see, etc. because we know that God promises the resurrection at the end of it all. When we take up our cross, we stop thinking about ourselves and direct our thoughts towards Christ and the works and deeds He has done.
Today, let us pray for the grace to focus on Jesus. Then, take some time and meditate on the good works God has done in your own life. Deliberately focus you thoughts on God's deeds and the nature of His character.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for the life that comes after death. Thank you that I have the hope of your resurrection when I have to die to myself and carry my cross in this life. I pray for the grace and reminders to focus my attention and thoughts on you. As I fix my gaze on you, Jesus, help me to grow in love and understanding of who you are. Amen.