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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Who is this Jesus and why do I need to carry a cross?

Mark 8: 27-35
Homily - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks the disciples the question “who do people say that I am?”
Then He asks a very direct question “But who do you say that I am?” Isn’t this the question that we should be asking of ourselves as well?

Who is Jesus Christ to us, in fact, who is Jesus Christ to me personally? The big question today is really a core question. Are you a Christ follower? Do you identify yourself as a Christ follower? What does that really mean to you?

Why do you want to be a follower of Jesus? Is it to get into Heaven? Is it to get rid of guilt, to find peace in your life? Is it to make life smoother, more enjoyable?

What is your motive for following this Christ around? Whom do say He is? Are you so serious about being a part of God’s Kingdom that you are willing to give up your desire for a comfortable life?

Are you serious enough to give up your job? Your family? Your possessions? Your life?

What about the words of Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” You cannot be a follower of Jesus; you cannot be a disciple unless you take seriously the implications of the Cross. Now it is true that life with Christ is filled with unspeakable blessings and the deepest kinds of happiness and peace, But this is no joy ride.

Sometimes our talk about what it means to be Christian is so superficial and so sentimental that it is almost sickening. It totally misrepresents what it means to be a Christian. Some of us are holding onto this world and what it has to offer so tightly that our knuckles are turning white. And yet, we still want the benefits of the Kingdom.

Jesus says that as soon as you loosen your grip, it’s all going to disintegrate and fall through your fingers like sand. This world and all it has to offer is temporary. I know it seems substantial. It seems so important, real, and lasting. It’s easy to want to hang on and spend our lives trying to be happy in the “here and now.” I understand that struggle; I live here too.

I find myself sometimes getting sucked into desiring the kinds of security this world thinks it has to offer. But as we rush around, sacrificing our peace on the altar of materialism, we hear the voice of Jesus saying, “That is not real life.That is not the Kingdom to which I have called you.”

And you know what we do? We are like Peter, and we try to straighten Jesus out. We take Him off in a corner and put our arm around Him and say, “Now come on Jesus, lighten up. You have got to stop all this serious death talk. You are going to scare off my friends. We are just trying to get by and enjoy life a little.”

That is when we need to hear the rebuke Peter heard: “Get behind me Satan,” Life in the Kingdom of God is not about preservation. It is about laying down your life. It is about surrendering yourself totally to God and taking the road of the Cross.

But the amazing thing is, the good news is, that life is found in that very surrender. Real Life. Everlasting life. The kind of life for which our hearts really long, the kind of life we were really meant to live. For so many of us, our understanding of the Crosses in life are misunderstood.

So many of us are always looking for a way to avoid our crosses, or wish we had someone else’s cross to bear.

It reminds me of a story: A young man was tired of the cross that he had been given to carry. He walked into a Cross Shop to exchange it for another. Putting the cross down, he tried out many crosses, but none suited him – they were all either too long or short, too heavy or light, too rough or slippery. Finally he picked one up that seemed just right and chose that one. The owner of the store remarked, that was very interesting, because that was the one he carried in!

God has either willed or allowed our crosses in life to be uniquely our own.To follow Jesus we must learn that the cross giving to us is actually a blessing; that the glory of God comes only through the Cross of Jesus Christ; that some of life’s deepest lessons are learned only through suffering.

We must be able to express our faith, not just through works, but also through the acceptance of some suffering, some cross.The necessity of suffering is not simply a pious desire to imitate Jesus.

Much of what is truly worthwhile can be accomplished only by those who are willing to trust Jesus’ word that suffering belongs to God’s plan, something difficult to achieve in a “Pain-killer” culture.

We are challenged to think as Jesus does. God does not delight in suffering - after all, the disciples were sent to preach and to heal. The danger is to think that suffering is always undesirable, and that if we pray enough, God will remove all suffering from our lives and fix all our problems. Many Christians have grasped the Jesus of the miracles, but have ignored the Way of the Cross.

Prayer is important in healing, but prayer at its deepest is an opening up of ourselves to what God wills, not an exercise in forcing God to do our will.

So in closing, I need to return to the question of this day, the straightforward question of our lives:

Are we truly Christians? Do we really understand what that means? Is there anything in our lives that are more important than the Kingdom of God?

Can we be honest with that question? It’s real easy to say.

“Yeah, the kingdom in the most important, Jesus is Lord, He is all I need.”


What does your life say?

What does your schedule say?

What does your checkbook say?

What would the other people in your life say?

The question of Jesus is for you today. “What good is it if you gain the whole world, but forfeit your soul? If you try to preserve your life you will just lose it. But if you will lay down your life, if you will lose your life into purposes of God and his kingdom, then you will truly find the life you were meant to live.

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