The Gospel Today
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Jesus said to his disciples:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected
by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all,
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself?”
Reflection (Sem. Rodel Aclan):
We know very well that salvation and eternal life with God is the gift we received for following Christ. But, what hinders us from following Him? It is because that we both know that we struggle to follow Him or sometimes even just to listen to Him. The Gospel reading today tells us why. Because, while we know very well what is the reward of following Him, we also know what is required from us in following Him. Jesus said “ If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’. There are two big words that intimidate us and prevent us from following Him. Many, including myself, are eager to listen and follow Christ but many also are unwilling or afraid of the requirements asked of us. We find it difficult to deny ourselves of the pleasures, security and peace that our comfort zones have provided us. This include relationships that give us emotional security. We also have, attachment to material things, like gadgets, cars, and other treasured possessions. We cannot bring all of these if we want to follow him because it will slow us down, makes us tired and take away our attention to Christ. I remember before entering the seminary, my discernment brought me to the thought of the things that I would have to give up if I decide to enter the seminary. Firstly, I have to give up my work. I have work only for seven years since I graduated college. There was still plenty of possibilities and opportunities ahead of me to advance in my chosen career. My work provided me the means to live in comfort and satisfaction. Secondly, I will have to deny myself of the possibility of having my own family. At that time my girlfriend and I were already planning to get married. We had many plans and dreams that we wanted to reach together. To enter to the seminary for the purpose of exploring God’s call in the priesthood entails denying myself of those dreams.
Following Christ does not only mean denying oneself. Christ wants us to do more and that is to carry our own cross daily. In my reflection, I asked myself, “what are my crosses in life?” At first I tried to remember the big problems or struggles of my past . I was trying to think of the big sins that I had committed hoping that I will be able to fully understand what really are my crosses. It was not a difficult job, readily, problems, negative emotions and even sins big and small alike in the past came to my memory at once but I was not fully satisfied . They are not the totality of my crosses. It must be something more. Then I realized, that my crosses are the daily challenges in my life and how I respond to them with love. Whether we like it or not, we are carrying our crosses, whoever we are, whether we believe in God or not our cross is on our shoulders. The only difference is whether we acknowledge that we have our cross on our shoulder or not. To acknowledge that we carry our cross is to acknowledge Christ. To acknowledge Christ is to believe in Him and the salvation that He brings. If we do not acknowledge Christ, we can only see and feel the burden of the problems and struggles that we experience and will continue to experience until the end of our days. Christ boldly invited us to carry our cross because He knows there is no shame anymore in the cross but salvation and eternal glory.