Read Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Ps. 77:12-16,21, Matthew 16:24-28

“Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What will profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26)

Just after making Peter the visible head of the church (“You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.” Cf. Matthew 16:18), Jesus spoke of His imminent arrest, death and resurrection. Peter could not reconcile how Jesus, the Son of God, would be subjected to cruel treatment and death.

Peter’s stance is similar to that of many Christians today. We often ask: “How can I have God as my Father and still be suffering?” or “How can I be a prayer warrior, a leader in the church, a child of light, etc. and still beg for my daily bread?” I have heard many say: “If your church does not change you (that is, make you wealthier financially), then change your church.”

Today's Gospel passage continues Jesus’ response to Peter when he tried to discourage Him from the Way of the Cross (the road of suffering, humiliation and death). Jesus even referred to Peter as “satan” for reasoning this way. I guess Peter and the other disciples were shocked to hear Jesus saying: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

What does it mean to deny yourself and take up the cross? St. John Chrysostom explained thus: When you deny a person, for instance, say, a brother or a close friend, it means you would fail to defend that person or try to rescue him when you see him beaten, kicked, slapped and tortured. And so, when you deny yourself, you do not resist whatever sufferings, beatings, or humiliation come your way due to your Christian Faith.

According to St. Jerome, to take up the cross is to become crucified to the world and consider the world as crucified to you. Jesus asked: “What exactly do we gain if we are unqualified for heaven at the end of our lives?” Can we take anything with us when we die? Why do we invest so much time and energy caring for our bodily needs and neglecting our spiritual needs?

Carrying the cross entails embracing the difficult aspects of our Christian faith, such as: loving our enemies, forgiving hurts easily, and upholding strong moral values such as faithfulness to one’s marital vows, purity of heart, honesty, kindness, etc. In a world that further immerses itself in darkness, keeping God’s commandments faithfully is a huge cross. Nevertheless, this is our calling.

It is a call that has been re-echoed from the time of Moses, as we hear in today’s First Reading: “You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have a long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever.” Do not listen to God’s word as entertainment; practice and observe all that God has said.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, may my love for the things of this world not become an obstacle to my desire for eternal life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saint Clare, Virgin. Bible Study: Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Ps. 77:12-16,21, Matthew 16:24-28).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu