Today’s Gospel: Matthew 16:24-28
Optional Memorial of Saint Sixtus II, Pope, and Companions, Martyrs
Optional Memorial of Saint Cajetan, Priest
The gospel of Matthew is often referred to as the Teaching Gospel, and today’s reading contains an especially hard lesson. The Lord tells us, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. How will our lives be saved by losing them? What kind of weird paradox is this? Yet it becomes clearer if we understand that Jesus is speaking of ‘life’ in two senses. One is a life without love; the other is a life of love in Christ that begins here and endures. As St. Paul says, faith and hope will end, but only love shall remain; and as Jesus said to the Samaritan Woman: The water I will give will become a living spring within you, “gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
A denial of self, represented by the cross, sounds crushing to modern ears. Yet it is not a love of suffering or a blanket acceptance of all that is wrong in the world that is contained in this symbol. Instead, the cross is something that God knows will be for our sanctification (that is, our wholeness and life) and permitted only for that. The cross is not an excuse for oppression or violence or any anti-kingdom event happening in our midst. Such evils must be defeated in the name of God, and working against them patiently is often a way that people take up their cross.
As mothers, we are teaching and modeling for a new generation that love that is for the sake of the salvation of the world. It proclaims that giving to others is part of who we are as followers of Jesus, and when we give of our time and talent we are giving the very best we have. The cross will end, but the love that is the foundation of generosity and faith behind it will not end. It will be the means to unending Life in Christ, the whole point of our existence.
What would I identify as my cross at this time in my life? What gets in the way of my learning to carry it with love, patience, and a generous heart?
Jesus, your love is the salvation of all creation. Help us to love in union with you and so become part of the universal work of building the Eternal City.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Julie Paavola