In this 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Jesus leaves us with this thought:
34 He 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. 35 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.
Mark 8:34-35 | NABRE
Jesus, the Son of God, in following the will of the Father, gave up his life, so we can have ours. Simon Peter, in the first part of the Gospel reading this Sunday, tried to disuade Jesus from doing this after He had shared with His disciples what was about to happen. Although, to be fair to Peter, he hadn’t fully grasped God’s plan at the time and it was only after Jesus’ resurrection that he began to realize what God’s plan was for him.
However, this scene between Peter and Jesus in Mark’s Gospel shows us that even if we desire to follow God’s will for us, there can be barriers that may prevent us from fully doing so. It could be our family and friends holding us back; it could be our careers or goals; it could be attachments to people, places or things; it could be resentments or past experiences; or it could be fear or uncertainty.
In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah tells of how he placed his full trust in the Lord. That whatever happened, he knew that the Lord had his back and will help him. Similarly, hours before His passion, Jesus felt fear, but put His trust in the Father and opened himself to His will.
But faith clearly isn’t enough. There should be a corresponding action that shows the faith. Hence, St. James tells us in the second reading:
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
18 Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
James 2:14, 18 | NABRE
Isaiah suffered beatings; he was insulted and spit on. Yet, he remained steadfast, faithful in the Lord. He did not focus on the bad things that people were doing to him or saying against him. These were his crosses and he bore them. He used them to demonstrate his trust in God.
6 I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who tore out my beard;
My face I did not hide
from insults and spitting.
7 The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
Therefore I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
Isaiah 50:6-7 | NABRE
Sometimes what we think distractions in our life are actually crosses. These are things in our life that we have to contend with and can’t really leave behind. It could difficult friends or family members; a colleague at school, work or church; an illness; or a disability. Like distractions, our crosses shouldn’t keep us from serving God fully.
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, tells us that Jesus came down from heaven, suffered and died for our sake. He didn’t have to, but because of His love for us,
7 [Rather], he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
8 he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:7-8 | NABRE
In discerning and consequently following God’s will for us, are ready to give everything up? Are we ready to leave everything behind? If we are not ready to give up everything just yet, what small thing are we willing to surrender or give up? What little thing can we do without? How willing are we to bear our crosses?
O God and Almighty Father, we praise You and we thank You for sending us Your Son Jesus to save us from sin and death. We ask you to give us the strength and courage to overcome the distractions that come in the form of the daily challenges in our life which hinder us from hearing, listening, and obeying Your will and Your plan for us. Give us also the same strength to bear the crosses we have in our life.
Send the Holy Spirit to always encourange us whenever we feel down, afraid, hopeless, or discouraged. Help us to find parts of our life that we can give up and leave behind, so that we can better serve You and others better. This way we can share the Gospel in how we live our life.
Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, we ask You this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever. Amen.