(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm; Sunday 7.30am & 9am)
22/23 June 2013
[Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1; Ps 62; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24]
In chapter nine of his Gospel, Saint Luke gives five sayings of Jesus that describe the demands of being a disciple of Jesus. We have two of these sayings in the Gospel today.
The second of these is: anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that person will save it. Jesus says that if we’re faced with the option of pursuing his agenda or indulging our own interests, then it is only following his way that leads to fulfillment (1).
The first saying in today’s Gospel is: If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. This saying is reported in the other Gospels, but it is different in Saint Luke because he has Jesus say that the person who wants to follow him must take up his cross every day. It’s not something that we do once and for all, but daily. The way we respond to the challenges that arise every day is the way that we take up our cross.
Giving ourselves in love for the sake of Christ is how we lose our lives for Christ’s sake. The fathers of Vatican II taught: “Man … the only creature on earth which God has willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et spes, 24).
So how can we do this? How can we possibly continue on a path that calls us to daily self-denial; that calls us to put aside vice and grow in virtue; that calls us to show mercy and forgiveness to those who wrong us … when our natural inclination is to serve our own interests, and to seek comfort and pleasure? We’d probably prefer it if Jesus said, “if you want to be a follower of mine, then find self-fulfillment, put down your cross, and have a rest.”
The only way that we can do as Jesus said is by remaining in close communion with him, because he did these very things that he says his followers need to do. And so we need to remain close to him so that he can give us the grace to live as he did.
The first reading today contains a prophecy that points to the death of Jesus. It says that when the House of David and the people of Jerusalem “look on the one whom they have pierced,” God will pour out a spirit of kindness and prayer over them, and that a fountain will be opened to purify them from sin and impurity. Well, Jesus is the one who was pierced, and from him comes a fountain of love and grace. This mystery is summed up beautifully in the Preface for the Mass of the Sacred Heart, celebrated recently. That prayer says, “For raised up high on the Cross, he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out blood and water from his pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s Sacraments, so that, won over to the open heart of the Saviour, all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” This is symbolized well in the image of the Divine Mercy, with the red and white rays coming from Christ’s heart, reminding us of the blood and water which flowed from his side, symbolizing the fountain of grace that flows from the heart of the Saviour.
It is the love of Jesus himself that enables us to follow him. It is his love that makes us realize our sins, to repent of them and to confess them. It’s his love, flowing from his Heart, that helps us to deny ourselves to seek the good of others. It’s his love that picks us with when we fall, and calls us back to him.
If we are to take up our cross every day and follow Jesus, then every day we need to open ourselves to the grace that Jesus gives us. We need to daily make use of the tools that are provided to us that help us remain close to the Lord: the sacraments, especially Confession and Mass; our daily prayers; our acts of charity; our daily mortifications and penances; the Rosary.
Tonight/today we come to the fountain; we come to draw from the wellspring that gives us life. Our hearts are joyful that Jesus is with us, and that he has called us to himself. May that joy spill over to every day: so that daily we will open our hearts to the love of Jesus so that he can help us to renounce ourselves, to take up our cross, and to keep following after him.
(1) Archbishop Terence Prendergast SJ, Living God’s Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year C (Toronto, Novalis, 2012), pp. 99-101.