We are provided with the basis of our faith in today’s Gospel reading. This being the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, who suffered, died, and rose again for our salvation. Mark outlines the conditions that are required to become disciples, namely, denial of self, taking up our daily crosses, and following Jesus.
Today marks the beginning of a series of Sunday Gospel readings from Mark, chronicling the journey of Jesus and his apostles from Galilee to Jerusalem, during which Jesus provides instruction on what discipleship means and who He is.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus provides the first of three prophecies found in Mark, concerning His passion, death, and Resurrection. This follows on from the Messianic confession of Peter. Jesus declares to those present that, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
Denying self means to extinguish all selfish thoughts, evil desires and temptations from our heart and putting service of God at the forefront of our lives. To carry our cross with Jesus means to willingly accept suffering without bitterness or anger as part of our lives. It means that we must die to self and look to eternal life as the reward for our suffering. We offer our lives in the service of others and this may entail self-sacrifice and discomfort.
To follow Jesus, means that we must follow His commands and listen to the word of God and ensure our actions are a witness to His word. However, this presents us with an interesting question. Do we have a strong enough faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for the sake of Jesus?
In a world where it is frowned upon to put others first, can we put others before our own needs and sacrifice something for the sake of the Gospel?
This Sunday we are invited to look at our lives and to compare our lives with the life of Jesus. Are we ready to suffer and die for our faith? Are we ready to truly die to self?
We can do this in many ways, by setting aside time to visit Christ in a homeless shelter or care home. We can say no to unjust policies and practices, and by standing up for the truth when it is easier to just go along with the majority and do nothing. We can humbly accept the crosses that come our way and, even more to the point, we can stop in our busy lives and help to lift the weight of another’s cross.