Commentary on Matthew 16:24-28
Jesus has already shocked his disciples by telling them in advance what is going to happen to him as Messiah. Now he goes further and tells them that they, too, will have to have a part in his experience.
They are to follow in his footsteps. Like him, they are to be ready to take up their cross, whatever it may be, and carry it behind him. For some, it will mean dying for Christ and the Kingdom. For others, it will mean living totally for Christ and the Kingdom. Notice, Jesus tells them to take up their own cross, not his. That cross will be different for each person; it takes the form of some difficult thing which it is clear we must accept and not run away from. It is not to be sought for; that would not be a healthy thing to do. It will come, unmarked and unchosen but clear.
The other way, to avoid all pain and seek only what brings pleasure and enjoyment, is to go down a cul-de-sac, a blind alley that leads nowhere. That is what we mean by trying ‘to save our life’. It is a sure way to lose it.
What is the use of “gaining the whole world”, becoming a multi-millionaire and being profoundly unhappy? Living for oneself only is to end up finding one’s self dying. Letting go of one’s life to live for others, to live for truth, love and justice is to live a full life, even if shortened by physical death. Many of the saints died long before their time but achieved in a few years what most of us cannot do in a long life. “Consummatus in breve, explevit tempora multa” is a scriptural phrase applied to some of the saints who died relatively young. It says that, although their life came to an early end, they had filled it with many good things.