24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)



September 16, 2018

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.

Some people like to take on dangerous risks. Many of them are over self-confident, and a few never think they are risking too much. A good example of it is the practice of extreme sports, also called action sport, or adventure sport, all activities perceived as having a high level of intrinsic danger. These activities usually involve speed, height, a high level of physical action, energy and to get the adrenaline going. Some examples are, surfing, skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing, hang gliding and bungee jumping. Athletes practice these adventures for the pleasure to take on risk or just to overcome anxiety. People many times put their lives on risk, and no few times have had fatal accidents.

Jesus was aware that he was going to die on the cross; that it was on his Father´s divine plan of salvation for us. He did not risk his life for the pleasure of enjoying an adventure. His life was in danger even from his birth all the way to mount Calvary. However he had so much confidence in God his Father, as we hear the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading, “The Lord is my help, therefore I am not disgraced (...) who will prove me wrong?”

You probably remember when as young children we heard the Passion of the Christ for the first time. We felt scare when we knew that Jesus was also challenging us, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We now comprehend that taking up Jesus´ cross does not mean a literal cross. This metaphor becomes evident in the itinerary of our lives when we experience pain and sorrow because of disloyalty, infidelity, serious illness, not enough resources to cover the basis demands of personal and family life, the experience of a personal or a family member´s addition. The cross for families may signify the physical or moral lost of a member, or the divorce of parents.

The scenery of Mark´s Gospel today is in the northeastern corner of Palestine. Jesus and his disciples are on the way to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Peter on behalf of his fellow apostles answers to Jesus´ question, "You are the Messiah." And this is perhaps the most important answer ever given regarding any matter of faith. All other identifications like John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets, fell far short the target, Jesus is the Messiah.

Today’s first reading from the Third Servant Song is a painful scene. This Poor Servant represents the Messiah prophesied by Isaiah. His physical and psychological humiliation is not going to make him change the Father´s plan on his Son. This time Peter is not acting on behalf of the group; he does not talk to Jesus in front of the group, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.” Only Satan would interfere with the mission of God; this is why Jesus calls Peter “Satan”. Peter sees no way Jesus could suffer and die.

Jesus teaches Peter and us that we cannot postpone the values of the kingdom which are more important than the values of the world. When Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” he means that to follow him is much more than just being a member of the Church and observing some rules. He is calling us to take our faith seriously, he calls us, to put him before everything else in the world, and he adds, “He who loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”

For us, disciples of Jesus, is not enough to call Jesus Messiah, but to establish a personal relation of faith. Let´s not forget that the cross of Christ is no a catastrophe, nor a simple adventure. Moreover, for us, disciples of the Lord, the cross is not an end, Calvary is not the climax; the cross endured with faith and love, is the bridge to participation in Jesus´ glory.

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