Jesus lays out the path of discipleship in a passage from St. Matthew's Gospel.
Jesus said to his disciples,Matthew 16:24-25
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
What does it mean, in extremely concrete terms, to be a disciple of Jesus? This seems to be answered by today’s Gospel passage: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself take up his cross, and follow me.”
We could say that being a disciple of Christ involves two essential existential movements. The first is “to deny yourself.” In a literal sense it may sound like an ugly thing, a way of hurting yourself, not valuing oneself, and so on. But the real meaning of “denying yourself” is the ability we should all have to be “free from ourselves.” And who are the people who are truly free from themselves? Those who also know how to say “no” to themselves. Denying yourself, then, means knowing how to say “no” to yourself.
The second part of discipleship is in “taking up your cross and following Jesus.” The verb “take” implies choosing to take responsibility for what comes in life. It means ceasing to merely endure things and facing them. We are Christians when we face things without continuing to act like passive victims, especially all the things that have happened to us that we did not choose.
And once we have done this, what comes next? The Gospel says that we must “follow him.” This means that we don’t know from the beginning where we’re going and what the right thing to do will be. It’s a daily journey on which from time to time we grasp what the best thing to do is, without improvising but following Jesus step by step.