Reflection for Sunday, August 29, 1999: 22nd week in Ordinary Time.
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Alexander, Andy, S.J.
If you wish to come after me, you must deny yourself, and take up your cross and follow me.||For if you wish to save your life, you will lose it.|If you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.|What would it profit you to gain the whole world and forfeit your life?|Or, what could you give in exchange for your life?|Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem, and that he will be rejected and killed there. It must have been an incredible shock to these guys who thought they were following someone who would usher in the "Reign of God." They had just assumed that meant success. And, they must have assumed that their own sacrifices, in leaving home to follow him, would lead to some rewards. They were sure that the honor and glory he would receive would be something they'd share in.|Peter just takes Jesus aside and argues with him. It just can't happen this way. Jesus must be wrong about what will happen or must resist it, if the opposition as that strong. But certainly, his mission will succeed and not end in death for him.|In perhaps the strongest language Jesus has used, he tells Peter how he is acting. Like the Tempter he encountered in the desert, as he began his mission. As an obstacle in the path of his mission. Peter is thinking only in worldly terms, and not the way God thinks.|Then Jesus turns to his disciples and takes them to the core of the mystery of life and their discipleship. Following Jesus means being with him in the pattern of who he is - total gift of self for us. It involves taking up a mission - a mission given and borne out of loving self-donation.|The instinct for self-preservation is deep within all of us. However, we don't have an instinctive ability to discern what choices will preserve our life and which will not. We all want to "live" and thrive and succeed and be happy with every fiber of our being, yet we make bad choices all the time. What "appears" to make us happy, often doesn't. We do self-defeating things, develop un-healthy patterns, find our way into un-happiness over and over. We know this to be true about our everyday lives. Jesus can't love us without wanting us to be happy and truly alive. So, he surrenders his life, to show us the way to preserving ours. Jesus opens our eyes to see our lives from a transformed perspective - with eternal life as our central focus and desire.|How can I lose my life with him? What is the cross I must take up? Who am I being invited to love, with more and more of my very self? The answers to those questions will lead me to the happiness and the life I most deeply desire. Answering those questions will bring me to face to face with the relationships of my life, the choices I make about lifestyle and all my possessions, the way I use power or manipulation to get what I want, what I do or fail to do for and on behalf of the poor. The answers will invite self-sacrifices as small as deferring to the needs of others before mine, to some decisions that could change the ways I live my life and how I see myself in relation to others in the world.|In the Fourth Gospel, at a point when people are turning away from Jesus because he describes himself as life-giving bread we can eat, giving us his very flesh for the life of the world, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks, "Are you going to go away, too?" At that point Peter says, "Lord, where would we go? You alone have the words of everlasting life."
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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