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(Part 28)


March 6, 2014
Today’s gospel: Luke 9:22-25

In today’s gospel, Jesus talks about the conditions of discipleship. Just because you claim to be a Christian or were baptized as a Catholic does not make you truly a Christian or a disciple of Jesus. Discipleship is about being the kind of person that Jesus intends for us to become. So Jesus “said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me ....’” (v.23a). Jesus does not force anyone, even as he knows that it is best if we do come after him.

Now one thing is obvious. The true Christian life is hard, challenging and self-sacrificial. We after all follow in the footsteps of Jesus. What happened to him? “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed” (v.22a). Suffering, rejection, death. Such was God’s way for His Son. Such is also God’s path for the true Christian. Seemingly a life of defeat and ignominy, it actually is the path to victory, glory and true life. Thus, for Jesus: “on the third day be raised.” (v.22b).

So do you still wish to come after Jesus? Then, according to Jesus, such a person “must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (v.23b). The conditions of discipleship are three things (and these are what make a true Christian).

First, he must deny himself. We do not look to our own life, our own desires, our own agenda, our own priorities. We are to serve God with our all, without counting the cost. We are to be ambassadors of Christ, representing him and presenting him to the world. We are to proclaim the good news of salvation in him, in doing so willing to endure any hardship. We are called to be witnesses. We testify to the love of God. We share about Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross, his perfect self-denial. When we do all these, we can expect to be ridiculed, oppressed and persecuted. We must stand firm. We must be ready to give even our very lives. We are called to be martyrs.

Second, he must take up his cross daily. We are to do the work of evangelization. We are to assault the dark kingdom of the evil one. We engage in spiritual warfare. We do so under the banner of the cross, for there is our victory and power. We are to win this world for Christ. Thus we are called to mission. We engage in real war, and we will be bruised and bloodied. We put on the armor of God. We wield weapons of righteousness, especially the sword of the Spirit. We are called to be warriors.

Third, he must follow Jesus. Jesus obeyed the Father unconditionally. He was always praying to the Father. He abandoned himself to God’s will. He rejected the temptations of the evil one. He loved without reservation, even his very enemies. We are to do likewise. We are to reflect Jesus in our lives. We are called to holiness. As God who called us is holy, we are to be holy in every aspect of our conduct. We are to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. We are to be other Christs. We are to be holy temples where the Holy Spirit dwells. We are called to be saints.

When we deny ourselves we let go of our very lives. When we embrace the cross, we lay our lives on the line. When we follow Jesus, he leads us to death to self, or even to actual physical death for his sake. But it is in such letting go of our lives where we discover true life. In being killed Jesus was raised. In coming after Jesus we will uncover the mysterious truth: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (v.24).

What indeed are we here in this world for? To attain to riches, power, position, influence, renown, sensual pleasures, material rewards? That would be foolish. “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” (v.25). Do we truly wish to come after Jesus? Then take up the call.

Called to follow Jesus, to deny self, to take up the cross daily.
Called to holiness, to be witnesses, to mission.
Called to be saints, martyrs and warriors.

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