Living the Sunday Gospel: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.

Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He 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.”

NO CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT THE CROSS

Many times we think about the cross as a sign of pain, suffering, and death. However, in these moments we can ask ourselves who in this world, single or otherwise, does not undergo the daily, excruciating reality of bearing one’s cross? The cross is not something foreign to man, in any age, time, or social status. Everyone, in different ways, encounters the cross on their journey; and all are deeply marked by it. “Yes, the cross is inscribed in man’s life. Wanting to exclude it from existence itself is like trying to ignore the reality of the human condition. Thus, we were created for life and yet, we cannot remove our personal suffering and trial” (Pope John Paul II).

We experience the cross in many situations: when the family instead of harmony and mutual love, doubt or aggression reigns; when we received hurtful words from our loved ones; when infidelity destroys a home; when we experience the betrayal of those we love; when we are victims of injustice; when evil hits us one way or another; when they increase the difficulty in our studies; when a project fails; when it is almost impossible to find a job; when we lack the money to support our family; when we are diagnosed with a serious or incurable disease; when death suddenly takes from us a loved one; when we are immersed in emptiness and loneliness; when we cannot forgive… How many are the times in which we feel the weight of the cross in our lives!

Many times our first reaction is to escape from the cross. Indeed, it is not desirable to assume it, because it is too much. We do not wish to suffer and therefore we rebel against the pain, because we fear death. We search for an escape in so many ways, sometimes we find refuge in alcohol, drugs, illicit pleasures, gambling, pornography, etc. These “shelters” provide temporary pain relief or cancel it for a movement; however, over time we need a new “dose”. And with each “dose” we find that we need an increasingly stronger one the next time, until at last we are enslaved to a path of slow but inevitable destruction.

The truth is, without Christ, all suffering is meaningless. It becomes sterile, silly; it crushes, sinks us into bitterness, and has no solution. For this reason, many seek to evade it. But those who look to Christ on the Cross, who understands that His passion was their reconciling and that He experiences their suffering—suffering finds a new meaning. When associated with the Lord’s Cross, suffering, while still being a sense of pain, becomes something fruitful, saving, and the source of countless blessings for not only oneself, but and many others as well.

CONCRETE MEANS

1. Can I be a disciple of Christ without carrying my own cross daily; without taking up the radical demands of the Christian life; without shouldering my personal denial as a path to the fullness and glory? “Whoever does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple.” There is no Christianity without the cross! Do not forget, that to be disciples of Christ, we must “follow Him”, we must follow in His footsteps. From His example we learn how to “die to live”, to “die” to all our own personal selfishness, all of our sins and vices that have become “second nature”; and to all that that opposes the Plan of God. Let us not forget that those who carry His cross and follow the Lord to Golgotha; those who totally give of themselves to this personal sacrifice consumed by love for God and others, will also share in the triumph of the Lord, in His resurrection. This is the hope that sustains and encourages us to carry our crosses with patience, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that shall be revealed to us.” (Rom 8:18)

2. The attitude we should have is to assume the cross with courage, looking to the Lord’s strength to accept it with dignity. In moments of pain and suffering intensely ask God for the grace to learn how to live mortification, and to understand the virtue of suffering patiently—especially when facts and events are beyond our control. Most we should unite our sufferings, disappointments, and all that is painful or annoying to the mystery of Christ’s suffering.

Let’s be SAINTS!!!!

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