The Gospel according to Mark (8:34-9:1)
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. 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. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? 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.” 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.”
The first most fundamental question posed to us through this Scripture is this: Do you wish to come after Jesus? Unless this question is answered first, the rest of what Jesus says will have no effect upon you. So let’s look at that question.
Everyone reading this gospel has most likely answered that question in the affirmative numerous times. Each time you go to Mass, spend time praying, or read the Scriptures you are, in one way or another, saying, “Yes, I want to come after You, Lord.” Most likely, we have all even said specific prayers by which we make the conscious choice to follow Christ. But we should see much more than the need to simply make an intellectual choice in this passage.
The phrase, “Whoever wishes” seems to reveal even more than a decision, it reveals a desire. It reveals that a desire to follow Christ is not usually the first step in the process, it’s the last. The first step is to come to an understanding of the truth and to profess it. Secondly, we must will what we have chosen. Thirdly, once grace begins to work on us to transform us, we begin to “wish” or “desire” all that Jesus wants of us and all that He calls us to embrace.
So what will we find ourselves “wishing” if we are following Christ with our whole being? We will find that we desire what Jesus reveals next; namely, we will desire to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Do you desire that?
It’s easy to desire to love and be loved, at least on a more superficial level. Hopefully, we all enjoy kind and caring words, both giving them and receiving them. But the true love of Christ, following His example of love, requires a desire for selfless and sacrificial love. This is the perfection of love! We are called, ultimately, to love without even considering the cost or the demands that Christian love places upon us. Or, to take it even further, we are called to love even that which is painful and difficult when it is the will of God. His will most certainly includes acts of sacrifice. True love, ultimately, desires even this.
Do you wish to come after Jesus? Are you ready and willing to embrace and even desire all that this entails? Say “Yes” to Him and His Cross. You make the choice. In the end, you will be eternally grateful you did.