“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mk 8: 34)

This Sunday we begin a series of seven Sunday Gospel readings from Mark’s account of the journey of Jesus and his disciples from northern Galilee to Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus gave
instructions about his identity and what it meant to follow him (discipleship). In training his disciples,Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he really was, then his entire ministry,suffering and death would be useless. Hence, he decided to ask a question in two parts. The first question: “who do people say that I am? Their answer was, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” The second question: “who do you say that I am?”or what is your personal opinion?” For the first time in their relationship, Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declared publicly: “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God.” Peter was the first apostle to recognize Jesus publicly as the Anointed One, the Messiah. However, Jesus was quick to explain to the disciples that he was not a political Messiah who would re-establish the Davidic kingdom after ousting the Romans. Instead, he was the Messiah who would redeem mankind by his suffering, death and Resurrection. Then we see Peter trying to dissuade Jesus from such a course. Jesus makes use of this situation and addresses to wider audience of the crowd and explains the three conditions to his disciple. Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus lays down three conditions of discipleship. Denying self: This means, with God’s grace, evicting selfish thoughts, evil desires and tendencies from our heart and filling it with God. Carrying of the cross with Jesus: The cross always means pain and suffering. Our sufferings become the cross of Jesus with its saving power when we suffer with him by dying to our self-centeredness through serving others selflessly, enduring physical or mental pain and illness without complaint. Following Jesus: This means that, as followers of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God, by obeying what is commanded by Jesus.  What does Jesus mean to me? Founder of a religion? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? “How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook?

Fr. Kishore Battu SAC

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