Thursday after Ash Wednesday – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 9:22-25

Like the First Reading today, the Gospel passage is also about death and life. It begins with Jesus foretelling what is going to happen to him. Intense physical suffering, mental suffering through total rejection by the leaders of his own people, and a brutal execution. But all will lead to resurrection and a new life that can never be taken away.

Jesus goes on to say that anyone who wants to be one of his followers must be prepared to walk the same path, carrying their cross after Jesus. Perhaps we should emphasise that we are to carry our own cross which will be different from the cross of Jesus and from that of other people. And Luke adds that it is something we must be prepared to do every day.

Of course, it is a call that goes against many of our normal instincts. Renouncing self goes against our desire to advance ourselves in the eyes of others. And who does not want to preserve their life? Self-preservation is a deep instinct. But self-preservation is not the same as self-advancement. Jesus is saying that a life spent focused only on ourselves and our own self-advancement is ultimately a recipe for self-destruction. We are bound to be disappointed.

The only way to live is, like Jesus, to offer our lives for the benefit of others in love, in caring, in solidarity, in compassion and in justice. This is the only way truly to find ourselves and to come out winners. What is the good of winning the whole world – becoming incredibly rich and famous – only to lose one’s integrity, one’s self-respect, one’s dignity as a person, to lose one’s happiness?

Our world – Christian and otherwise – is covered with statues and images of people who gave their lives for others, for causes and values greater than themselves. They are our heroes and our models.

And first among them is Jesus, dying in apparent failure and ignominy on the cross. We now see that cross as a victorious symbol of the greatest love that one can show for brothers and sisters.

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