Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “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 and that of the Gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.” (Mark 8:34-9:1)
“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 and that of the Gospel will save it.”
“Taking up our cross”. Most Christians have lived with that dictum all of their adult life. Some trivialize it, but others take it seriously. My message today is to both groups.
Taking up our cross cannot be trivialized because it is the essence of being a doer of his word rather than a listener of his word.
What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day? When my will crosses with his will, then his will must be done.
The word of God today calls us to look at the habits, the patterns of behavior in our own life, and to realize the power that they have over us. Certain habits might indeed be good. But there are other habits that hold us back and lessen our ability to live.
Some of us might have the habit of comfort, the habit of least resistance. We find ourselves at the end of our work plopping down in front of the television set or the computer screen, and hours go by. Over the course of the week, we can waste a great deal of time. We never stop to ask ourselves, “What could I accomplish if I spent that time in another way?”
Some of us might have the habit of forgetfulness. We live every day with people in our family, we see our friends often, but we forget how important these people are to us. When was the last time that we remembered why we love our spouse? When was the last time we remembered why we were proud of our children or thankful for our friends? When was the last time we told them so? These are real options for action in our lives, but all too often we do not seize them because the habit of forgetfulness takes those opportunities away. We live from day to day without ever recognizing the blessings that we have been given.
God calls us to grow, to deepen our life. Change is possible. Growth is a reality. But only if we face the habits that are holding us back. If we do not examine the habits in our life that are stifling us, we give them more power over us. We are a gifted people. We have a great potential. We have a bright future. But if we do not recognize the habits that are controlling us, that future, that potential, those gifts can be lost. We may be as powerful as an elephant, but if we are blind to the habits that control us, we can find ourselves powerless, tied to a small wooden stake as the world passes us by.
We live in a self-affirming age and Jesus calls us to self-denial so that we might have self-mastery and be capable of self-gift. We live in a hedonistic age that is addicted to pleasure and phobic about pain and Jesus calls us to take up or seize (rather than reluctantly accept) the Cross, the instrument on which we will die to ourselves, so that he in turn may live. Then he calls us to follow him as he sets the example of washing others’ feet, of becoming the servant of all, of giving his life as a ransom for others’. These are the works that flow from true faith in Jesus. Without these works, our faith is dead and we will lose our life, he states. Yet this is the living faith that defines the martyrs, that marks the saints.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord, forgive me for all the times I have set your teaching aside in my own life, and for all the times I have refused to deny myself and pick up my cross. Forgive me for seeking a comfortable living out of the faith with which I was entrusted in my baptism rather than an authentic faith rooted in a growing love for you. Forgive me for failing to let my life shine as a light in the darkness of today’s world. Jesus, I ask that you fill me with your love and draw me to yourself so that I will grow in the desire to build your Kingdom.”
Jesus asks the question: What will a person give in exchange for his life? Everything we have is an out-right gift from God. We owe him everything, including our very lives. It’s possible to give God our money, but not ourselves, or to give him lip-service, but not our hearts. A true disciple gladly gives up all that he or she has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God. God gives without measure. The joy he offers no sadness or loss can diminish.