Gospel: Mt 16:24-28
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for my sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?
Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, and he will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Following Jesus demands that we meet some conditions: “deny oneself,” “take up one’s cross” and “follow him.” Denying oneself could mean having to let go of our worldly desire for material riches, power, fame or prestige. The idea of taking up a cross doesn’t seem very appealing. The cross is symbolic of the sufferings and inconveniences we have to endure on account of our state in life or mission. Suffering is inevitable but what is being demanded of the disciples is to follow the example of Jesus. Doing the will of God is hard, and involves suffering. Following the example of Jesus is a real challenge. His teaching to do the right thing and to love our neighbor can be risky because loving can require sacrifice on our part.
What can we gain by denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Jesus? Everything we need to have a life of meaning, joy and fulfillment. This is what it means to “lose one’s his life for Christ’s sake in order to find it.” Meaning and fulfillment cannot be found in material things in this material world. As Saint Augustine once exclaimed: “You have made us for yourself O God… our souls are restless until they rest in you…”