Today, on this, the third Sunday of Lent, we are venerating the life-giving Cross of Jesus Christ. We have heard a very important Gospel. After the liturgy we will bow and venerate the Cross of Christ.
The Gospel describes what was said as Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. He will be judged by Pilate. He will be whipped. He will carry His Cross and will die on it. He tells the disciples that this is going to happen, but that He will rise again on the third day. Peter comes to Jesus and tells Him not to talk like that. Jesus calls Peter, “Satan” and tells him that Peter is judging by peoples’ standards and not God’s. This Gospel presents us with a very major problem, which we can say, we still have today. People do not fully understand the Word of God.
- Where can I get some help? – Mark 2: 1-12
- God does not have grandchildren – John 1: 43-51
- People are made in God’s image, not our image! – Luke 18:10-14
Jesus goes to the crowd and announces, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me”.
I would like to discuss with you these three elements, “let him deny himself”, “take up his cross”, “and follow Me”. They are not easy to understand, but these words are important to us if we are to become Christians and followers of Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to “deny oneself”? During lent we may think it means not eating chocolate during lent. No, Jesus is not talking about that, nor is He is talking about denying the use of nice things, singing or dancing. He is talking about the fact that we are not independent, but God’s creatures, His children, and that we belong to God and not to ourselves.
We might think that a Cross is anything which we must endure. The Cross is accepting ourselves the way we are. We are not perfect or without sin. We cannot lie about ourselves.
Today, on our streets, we hear at protests such things as, “This is my body. I can do whatever I want with it”. I have a right to abortions, etc. Jesus is saying that we and our bodies belong to God and Him alone. We say this, and acknowledge that we do not own ourselves. We belong to God. A lot of what we might hear today sounds good, but it is not the true nature of humanity. We can choose to deny God, but the Gospel is telling us how we are to be saved.
St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians says, “you are not your own: you are bought with a price”. (Cor 6: 19-20) Jesus is the Lord of our life.
The Gospel then says, “take up the Cross”. Before the crucifixion, these words were not understood by the disciples and perhaps today as well. We might think that a Cross is anything which we must endure. The Cross is accepting ourselves the way we are. We are not perfect or without sin. We cannot lie about ourselves. In the Gospel of Mark (7-22), Jesus Himself describes all the evil which is a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, all our sins. An example of taking up the cross could be something like, accepting a lose on the sports’ field, or accepting criticism. We accept it. We do not complain, nor are we destroyed by our imperfections. Taking up the Cross is being honest about our imperfect life.
God’s grace is with us. His burden is light. God is always with us. Only in denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him, are we saved.
Jesus then says, “follow Me”. Jesus tells us to be like Him, to obey His Word. We may not want to hear this, but being God’s children, wanting to be in heaven, means, listening to the Word of God. We are His creations.
Following Him, means, “to love your enemy”, “to pray for those who hurt you”, “to forgive others”, “to bear one another’s burdens”.
I have mentioned that the Gospel today can be difficult to understand for some. But we are not alone. God’s grace is with us. His burden is light. God is always with us. Only in denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Him, are we saved.