The Holy 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.”
Reflection: Whenever I read this Gospel, the line that stands out to me is, “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” We live in Southern California, the land of movie stars and celebrities, people who have wealth, power, prestige, and fame. How often do we hear in the news that one of these people has died because they have overdosed on drugs or taken their own life. Obviously, all the wealth, power, prestige and fame were not enough for them. They did not have joy in their life. They probably did not have a relationship with the Lord. As St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” Many people have restless hearts, and they try to fill the hole in their heart with fame, fortune, sex, drugs and other things. This is when we forfeit our life.
Jesus also tells us in this Gospel that if we are to be His disciples, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. If we want to save our life, we must lose it. If we lose our life for the Lord’s sake, we will save it. In other words, if we want to be a follower of our Lord, it is no longer about ME and what is in it for ME. It is no longer about worshipping the unholy trinity of ME, MYSELF, and I. It is about living your life for the Lord, the Church, and others.
We are all familiar with the simple rhyme of our youth, “Finder’s keepers, losers weepers.” The words of our Lord are very similar to this old rhyme with one crucial difference: for Jesus, the “losers” are the ones who come out ahead because they are the ones who gain salvation. We deepen our relationship with Jesus every time we say “yes” to him. We experience the peace that only Jesus can give, the peace of knowing that we are loved and forgiven. We know the joy of encountering Jesus in prayer and receiving the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
We know that being a follower of Jesus is not easy. It is not something we can do by ourselves. It requires God’s grace and cooperating with God’s grace. For most of us, it is a lifelong process. It is a choice that we must make every day when we wake up with the gift of a new day.
Action for the day: This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. Maybe we can get a head start by reflecting on what things we need to deny and lose in our life in order to follow Jesus more closely. We can always begin our Lenten journey early.