A reading from the gospel according to Mark 8:34-9:1:
34 Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
35 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.
36 What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
37 What could one give in exchange for his life?
38 Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
1 He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”
Reflection: Giving up and Gaining Life
The gospel reading above is an invitation to discipleship, that is, to be an authentic follower of Jesus. He says, “If anyone wishes…” which means that the first requirement is to wish or want to follow Him. No one will force you. You must have the desire to follow Him and that desire must be strong enough with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The second requirement of discipleship is to deny oneself. This means to give up running your own affairs and to let Jesus lead the way. It also means forgoing some pleasurable activities in order to focus on serving God. Jesus is telling His disciples to forget their personal interest for the good of others. He Himself showed us the way. He denied Himself of the glory of heaven in order to become our savior.
The third requirement is taking up your cross. In Jesus’ time, the cross means a death sentence. When the Romans order someone to take up his cross, it means marching to death. Like Jesus, a disciple must be ready to die for His faith. Taking up your cross essentially includes accepting the rejection of others or of the world.
Denying yourself and taking up your cross are daily or continuing activities. They are not easy because they may involve exerting effort, discipline and losing friends and peace of mind along the way. Our daily cross is personal to us and therefore, it is useless to compare it with others. Though our crosses may at times seem too heavy to bear, Jesus is always a prayer away to help us.
You cannot follow Jesus while holding on to your dear life. In other words, it is all or nothing. We give up our life for Him and we gain eternal life.