Losing and keeping

– Memorial of St Josaphat –

Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. (Luke 17:33)

Today’s gospel reading provides some vivid descriptions of the end times. Jesus speaks of destructive floods and fire from the sky coming upon the unrighteous “on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.”

Within this eschatological imagery, Jesus makes the comment that “[t]hose who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it” (see also Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; John 12:25). This paradoxical statement is a summary statement of Christian discipleship: if we are going to follow Christ into paradise, we must be ready to ascend Golgotha with him and our own cross.

Obviously, most of us will not be called to endure a literal crucifixion, as various Christians – including 26 martyrs in Japan – have down through the centuries. Nevertheless, when metaphorical crosses are placed upon our shoulders (note well: we do not choose them!), we should endeavour to embrace them as instruments of grace. A cross can be a “thorn in the flesh,” as St Paul experienced (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10), a bereavement, a betrayal, an illness, financial hardship or an accumulation of these and other trials.

While having a cross placed upon one’s shoulder is a scary thing, we should keep in mind that there is a bigger picture that we cannot see. God saw that the glory of his Son was to come through, and lay beyond, his terrible suffering on Good Friday, and so it is with us. Like Christ, we are called to practise loving trust and total surrender, while keeping the words of St Paul in mind: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Today, we might consider asking ourselves: To what extent do I try to secure my life so I can avoid carrying a cross? How am I, like Simon of Cyrene, called to assist those whose cross may be weighing too heavily on them?

By Mark Makowiecki

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