Our Gospel this week is the second half of the interchange between Jesus and Peter at Caesarea Philippi. Last week Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus is telling them what kind of Messiah he will be, one who suffers and dies, but Peter can’t accept it. Jesus gives three clear directions for being his disciple: deny self, take up your cross, and follow him.
Deny self: this simply means it is more than all about me. I have to be willing to go out of myself for others.
Take up your cross: being willing to put the needs of others before my own comfort; in other words, denying self is the cross that Jesus is offering to us. It is not looking for pain and suffering, but being willing to “deny self” for the sake of others.
Follow him: this means to follow Jesus’ example, to live as he did, especially in how we relate to other people. I would like to point out a couple ways I can emulate Jesus and, if I do, I will be denying self and taking up MY cross:
Be compassionate: I am willing to help those in need, visit the sick and the elderly, share time and talent with those in need. Jesus paid special attention to the outcasts of society.
Be humble: I recognize that all I am and all I have is a gift of God to be shared. I do not have to be right all the time and I can give way to the will of others. Jesus never put others down because he was better.
Be patient: I am willing to accept the mistakes of others, give them room to be themselves and grow, even those who are difficult. Jesus modeled patience for us in his relationship with Peter and the other disciples, who were slow to catch on to what his mission truly was.
Be forgiving: I am willing to forgive, and more than once, because I know God forgives me over and over. On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them.”
Be faithful: to the commitments I have made, to a trusting relationship with the God who made me. Jesus often went off by himself to a deserted place to gain strength and direction in life from his relationship with his Father.
The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. All we have to do is deny self, take up the cross of doing so, and include the needs of others in our priorities. How am I doing?
Church sign of the week: The devil doesn’t care if you go to church or read the bible, as long as you don’t apply it to your life.