September 16, 2012 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First, He explains to the disciples that He will have to suffer, “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” (gospel). Jesus then tells them that, as His disciples, they must follow His lead.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (gospel).
That is the life of a Christian disciple. We are called to not only to follow Christ’s example by picking up our crosses — recognizing that when we unite our sufferings to Christ’s they can be redemptive, they can be great blessings — but also to deny ourselves. We do not live for ourselves. We live for the Lord. Therefore, everything about our lives ought to be ordered to Him, giving glory to the Lord and calling others to do the same.
We follow Christ’s example. He emptied Himself “taking on the form of a slave” (Phil. 2:7) for the sake of the Father’s will. “Not as I will, but as you will,” (Mt. 26:42) He prayed in the garden. And so we empty ourselves — offering up all our pride, envy, jealousy, selfishness, greed, anger, and so on — to live a life of loving service focused completely on God and neighbor.
Indeed, following Christ’s example is not without cost. Even the Messiah — the Suffering Servant — endured persecution and ridicule. But that did not stop Him. His was a life of sacrifice — a life lived for others out of love; “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting” (first reading). And so must ours be.
If we proclaim Jesus to be the Christ as Peter did in today’s Gospel, then we must follow Him. We must give our all to bear witness to His truth, realizing that it is only in doing so that we are truly free, truly happy, truly fulfilled. Our faith in Christ Jesus must be demonstrated by the way we live our lives. Our identity as Christian stewards requires that of us.
“What good is it if someone says they have faith but does not have works?” (second reading). Our words and actions should bear witness to the gospel. Then, not only will we be fulfilled, but also others will see the beauty in Christ’s truth. They will recognize that Christ is the One through whom we gain true happiness and eternal salvation, and surely then our acts will call others to Him. But that is only possible when we stop living for ourselves, for worldly glory and so forth, and empty ourselves in order to live for the gospel.
What’s more, Jesus promises us that when we do so, we are greatly rewarded. “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” (gospel).
We were created to live for Him, to follow Him, to bring others to Him. Our lives are not our own. They are gifts from the Lord. Let us be sure to live them as such!