The Gospel according to Luke (9:22-25)
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: To use the word, suffer in any context is to solicit reactions of fear and anxiety. It is pretty safe to say that we have all suffered in our lifetime. There are many different types of suffering such as the myriad of physical ailments and conditions or emotional circumstances and situations that take us on a range of peril. Some suffering is manageable but unfortunately there is the extreme where we do not know how we can put one foot in front of the other.
Today’s gospel can and maybe should cause some anxiety. Jesus does not sugar coat or avoid the intensity of his proposal. First, he says, he must suffer greatly, be rejected, and killed. What was it like to hear these ominous words come from the one his followers had come to believe was the messiah. Then Jesus follows this with an invitation to come after him but only by doing as he does. It probably doesn’t matter how stout hearted any follower of Christ is, past, present, or future this invitation will shake anyone to their core because no one wants to suffer.
However heavy this message is Jesus never leaves us without hope. There are two words that appear in this gospel that I believe are meant to do just that. First is “raised”. The resurrection of Jesus is at the focal point of our faith. His promise that his death, although tragic and horrible would destroy sin and death and offer us the gift of redemption is a promise fulfilled. From the beginning of time God intended for us to always be together. Second is “save”. Even though no one wants to suffer, we as followers who pick up our cross daily know that the road to salvation is filled with much suffering. We also understand that everyone suffers, the righteous and the unrighteous. Our motivation is not to follow a set of rules or an institution, we are called to follow Christ! The one who gave everything he had for you and me. Infused with the grace of the gift of his life we are then able to express our trust in God’s promise of eternal life in all we say and do. Others will see what blessings are received when we lose our lives for the sake of the one who redeemed ours
Action of the day: No one should ever suffer alone. The sad truth is many do. It may be you. The most effective form of ministry has always been faith in action. Prayer and seeking knowledge about God, our church, and our faith are always encouraged and necesaarry to pick up our cross every day. There is someone in your life that needs you to suffer with them. Pray for the grace to see who that might be. Bring hope and relief to a weary soul.