[24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, Sept 13, 2015 / Isa 50:4-9a / Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 / Jas 2:14-18 / Mark 8:27-35]
WE often have busy moments here in our mission in Manila, Philippines. One day we were invited to give a half day workshop on prayer and Christian living. There were twenty people present. The organizer was an 80-year-old woman, zealous for the happiness and welfare of many of her friends and relatives. After that encounter it was off to celebrate a thanksgiving Mass in a Pharmaceutical company and to talk to various employees. The next day an impromptu interview was held by students wanting to discover more about missionary life for their school project. It was a challenge or a cross to juggle different priorities and needs as I was also preparing a formation for Sunday on the letter of St Paul to the Ephesians. In the middle of all this I received a phone call to come and speak to a person in difficulties. But strangely enough in the middle of all these activities in a moment of prayer and reflection I notice something paradoxical – a tremendous sense of peace and joy – I feel very alive!
How can this be explained?
Jesus our good teacher does so in the Gospel today (Mark 8:27-35). What is the lesson to be learned? “Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” It is as simple and as difficult as that. The most beautiful thing is to work for the kingdom, to work for Jesus and for the Gospel. The fruit is joy and peace. On the contrary, when I am the Lord of my own time (and many times I live like that!) the fruit is actually anxiety and tension and there is never “enough time.” As Jesus explains, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.” How different when I am not the center of my universe, when my life does not merely revolve around me, myself and I but others can disturb me!
When Jesus started to explain this way of the cross to his disciples Peter reacted strongly, taking Jesus aside and trying to correct him. But Jesus told him that he was thinking like a man and not as God does. 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.”
The lesson of the cross is very hard to understand in theory. It is not humanly “attractive” and can only really be assimilated in practice, in our actual lives. A couple I know, before the arrival of their first child, always had so much time for themselves and for fancy holidays and nights out. They now have their first child and are dedicated full time to taking care of this little one. The wife, who before always looked so glamorous, is now with some eye bags from late nights feeding the baby but she looks more beautiful than ever because she radiates so much joy and peace, no longer living for herself but trying to love and care for her child.
Let us reflect and ask, “Who am I living for today?” Is it for myself? We know the fruits that will come. How different to live for others, to live for the Lord and for his Gospel. Lord, how can I live for you and for your gospel? Let us ask for the grace not to be afraid to embrace our daily cross, not to be afraid to lose our lives because we have this written guarantee from the Lord himself – “Whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”