Scripture: At that time, Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” He also said to them, “Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come in power.” (Mk 8, 34 - 9, 1)
Reflection: The deepest reality and most mysterious element of our human existence is life itself. In today’s Gospel (Mark 8:34-9:1), Jesus asks the question, “What can a person give in return for his very life?” Jesus shows us the way to gain life, paradoxically, by losing it. How is it possible to gain something by losing it? The words of our Lord are terms of surrender - giving our very self to our Maker, at His call, so that we might receive back a radically new and transformed life.
Following Jesus means a denial of self, that is, a change of one’s heart, to walk with Christ, to put on Christ, and to share in the redemptive suffering of Christ. To follow Christ is to imitate His self-giving and His determination to be faithful to the call of God the Father addressed to Him at His baptism. “You are My beloved Son.”
No one can prove that life as we know it here continues endlessly. Sooner or later we are brought to the realization that life slips all too quickly away. We may face this fact at the death of a parent, a friend or neighbor, a husband or wife. We may struggle to hold on to what we have of life, but Jesus today is using the idea of life in the most all-embracing way possible.
The question is not just to prolong one’s existence in this world but rather to assure an existence of another order or form that transcends categories of time and space. That existence is the life of our spirit - the soul which is immortal. It will never die!
The message of today’s Gospel is a challenge to accept Jesus’ words here and now - an invitation to give ourselves to God’s plan for us despite the ultimate requirements which may be exacted. Jesus took up His cross in the conviction that this was His Father’s will. That cross was the instrument of our own eternal salvation. In Jesus we have the ultimate example of life lost that life might be gained. In Christ, death is loss of this life, yes; but the gain of another life because of Him and with Him forever.