Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

peters confession.jpg

 Mark 8.27-35

"Let him renounce himself … "

It is not exactly the warmest sounding invitation: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me." It sounds so threatening, so sombre and gloomy: "anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it". And yet the very meaning of gospel is good news - good news of the kingdom of God, the reign of God's love and power in and around us. Jesus gave his life to proclaiming the reality of that kingdom. He invites, his followers to share his faith in the kingdom and his commitment to it. And that is where the cross comes in: for the cross is the cost of commitment.

Having just proclaimed their faith that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah – Peter and the other apostles have yet to learn that Jesus will not conform to the traditional understanding of Messiah as a powerful figure who would lead and rule with irresistible force. In contrast, Jesus warned them he was to suffer grievously and be put to death, because of his own unswerving commitment to the reign of God’s love. And he assured them that God would raise him up on the third day.

So now, Jesus the Messiah wants us to imitate his commitment to God’s love by ‘taking up the cross’. There is something here already familiar to us: we readily pay the price of our commitment to some personal ambition. There is nothing sombre or gloomy about it. Rather the opposite – the sacrifices we make in pursuit of life's achievements are the expression of our determination, and they lead to joy and fulfilment in life. So Jesus is touching into what we know already when he seeks our commitment to following him by surrendering our lives to the reign of God's love - it will cost us, and he calls that cost the cross. It is an invitation, not to endless misery, but to fullness of life in love and truth, in justice, forgiveness and peace, an invitation to renounce selfishness in order to go beyond self - and really live.