This reading brings to closure the celebration of the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. The emphasis here is on the following of Christ Crucified. For instruction on this theme the lectionary turns to the gospel of Mark.
Here Jesus calls together the crowd and his disciples indicating that following him is for all i.e. the disciples, the crowds and those who read the gospel today. There is only one way to be a disciple of Jesus. That is to follow him. This section of the gospel is composed of six separate sayings.
The gospel of Mark was addressed to a persecuted church. Our Ukrainian ancestors would understand this. The point is that no matter what suffering comes our way in the end the kingdom of God will conquer all.
- The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
- The Mystery of What God has done for us in and through the Son
- The Wedding Banquet: A Party to Which No one will Come
Jesus calls firstly for denial of self. Self interest cannot be central for the Christian. Christ must be at the centre of one’s life. “Taking up the Cross” expresses the shame a disciple might expect to face. To “save” one’s life means to render all to Christ who is the source of life and gives it meaning. Those who follow Jesus may not live for their own sake alone.
In the third and fourth sayings Jesus uses business language to make his point. It makes sense to surrender material gain in exchange for eternal gain. This thought is more fully expressed in the book of Psalms (Ps 49: 7-8):
Those who trust in their wealth,
And boast of the vastness of their riches
Surely no one can ransom their self
Nor pay a price to God for their life
These sayings about loss of life for the sake of the gospel and the gain of the whole world in exchange for life illustrate the foolishness of relying on worldly existence.
The fifth saying about the coming of the Son of Man and the last judgement ae reminiscent something we find in the book of Daniel:
I saw coming on the clouds of heaven
As it were a Son of Man
The Son of Man will be rejected and killed but he will be raised and come again in glory.
The last saying should console us. Despite everything the kingdom of God will certainly come. In fact, the kingdom of God in power is already beginning in every instance where the Spirit is at work. Its fulfilment will come at the end of time.
Fr Brian Kelty