He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8, 34-36)
Jesus is addressing not only his disciples but all the people and put the conditions for following him.
Jesus did not tell their followers to keep their heads down and stay out of trouble. He told them to be ready to face opposition and exclusion and death even as the price of their faith.
He knew that it would take time before his followers would experience this and he was warning them that the people they respected as religious and civil leaders would denounce them and evict them from her homes and cities.
But Jesus assures them that it is worth giving your life for Him and for the Gospel.
Again this does not happen overnight. We all hope to be happy and successful. As we grow up we learn to find our way in life. We try to fulfil our own expectations and desires, but also to respond to the expectations of others such as parents, teachers, society, in order to find happiness and fulfilment in our lives.
But there is a deeper happiness and a deeper success which comes from being true to ourselves and from a sense of integrity in our lives.
To renounce to oneself is an invitation to be open to other possibilities in life – new ways inspired by God. We are invited to trust the Lord and allow him to be our Way, our Truth and our Life. It is no so much a matter of renouncing our own personal project but of making it coincide with the will of God – of finding the true path of life that can bring us fulfilment.
It is important to be in touch with the deepest desires of our heart. There we will find the will of God. The will of God is our deepest desire.
The path of the Gospel is a path of service to others, putting others first. Jesus puts it thus: “Whoever wants to be first has to learn to be the servant of all”.
Prayer before God is a great way to discover the reality of the path we are on in our own lives and a process of discernment will allow us to connect with our true vocation in life, to be in tune with what God wants from each one of us.