Deny self and follow
Yet the rich and the powerful have not all gone unscathed either. We even hear of rich and powerful men committing the horrific sin of suicide, either because of imminent punishment or the shame of a diminished reputation. (May God have mercy on their souls and give healing to their loved ones.)
In today’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-35), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives us an infinitely better way.
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.
A life centered around oneself is empty and no amount of distraction and diversion can save a person from the pain and the terror of an empty life.
The sooner we reject the world’s idea of life, the better.
The sooner we stop living a self-centered life, the better.
The sooner we center our lives on Christ, the better.
The sooner we live the truth and love of the Gospel in our lives, the better.
In living the Gospel, of course, we should especially heed the words of the Apostle James in today’s second reading (James 2:14-18):
What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith
but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to him,
“Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,”
but you do not give him the necessities of the body,
what good is it?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works,
Indeed someone might say,
“You have faith and I have works.”
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you
from my works.
Will a life centered on Christ and the truth of the Gospel be pain-free?
Far from it, but God rewards fidelity with ultimate vindication. Thus we may follow the example of the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading (Isaiah 50:5-9a):
The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
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.
The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?
If we thus deny ourselves and the empty life offered by the world, if we thus follow the Lord faithfully every day of our lives no matter what, we will not only endure but we will triumph eternally and sing from our hearts the words of today’s Responsorial (Psalm 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9).
I love the LORD because he has heard
my voice in supplication,
Because he has inclined his ear to me
the day I called.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;
I fell into distress and sorrow,
And I called upon the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”
Gracious is the LORD and just;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD keeps the little ones;
I was brought low, and he saved me.
For he has freed my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.