August 31, 2014: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Those who wish to come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit life? Or what can one give in exchange for life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to their conduct. Amen I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his glory. (Matthew 16:24-28)
Jesus hints of his own suffering and death in this Scripture from Matthew. He makes it clear that pain and suffering, even death, are part and parcel of the human life and the Christian life. Jesus seems to be telling us that whoever wishes to save their own life had better look to what that means for the Christian—the willingness to sacrifice their own needs, their wants, even their lives for the values that he is presenting as necessary for genuine life. The theme of the difficulty for the wealthy and important of the world—“What profit would there be for on to gain the whole world and forfeit life?” reappears. That is, to live out the Christian values of non-greed, non-exclusion, non-judgment, non-life-giving, non-selfish living. It’s a tall order for us raised with what we need to expect that we have a right to 80% of the world’s resources. Someone loses in that equation!
Jesus also is clear that those who wish to follow him will not have it easy. We are told to take up our cross and follow him. He tells us that we must be ready to accept sufferings in this life, and even an untimely death if that should be demanded of us. There are martyrs around us everywhere. Sadly we often don’t recognize them.
Look for martyrs of our day—women and men who die as they serve those in war-torn countries, those who are political prisoners, children at risk in corrupt nations, and global peace makers. “They will be repaid according to their conduct.”