Christ Carrying the Cross, Tiziano Vecelli, c. 1565
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:24-28
In this Gospel passage, Jesus tells us how to be one of His followers. Specifically, to be His disciple requires the denying of self. In this age of the unholy trinity – me, myself and I – these words of Jesus are hard to understand and follow. We live in a culture that honors and admires rugged individualism and personal satisfaction. Sacrifice and suffering are to be avoided at all costs. Yet Jesus is telling us that this is the way to eternal joy and happiness.
Jesus not only tells us, but he shows us the way to experience joy. He sacrificed Himself on the cross for His bride, the Church. Marriage requires that my life no longer revolves around me but around my spouse and family. The same holds true if we want to be a disciple of Jesus; my life no longer revolves around me but around Jesus as the center of everything I do. Marriage and family life are a school of love. We learn sacrificial love for the good of others.
As the above Gospel says, we must lose our life to save it. We must reorder our lives around Jesus, the source of life’s deepest joys. We reorder our lives around Jesus because we are in love with the source of love. We must respond to Love with love. Jesus is our happiness and joy. To be a disciple of Jesus means to share in His sufferings, as well as His joys. In following Him, we are saying “yes” to His joys and His sorrows.
In our families, we must sacrifice for love, focusing on the other. We deny ourselves so that others may receive the best fruits of our labors. We give without counting the cost. We must take up our cross and bear it with Jesus. It is the pathway to heaven and eternal joy.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us. Mother Mary Immaculate, please show us how to live out the love displayed in the Holy Family in our families so that we may be living witnesses to the love of your Son, Jesus Christ.