12th Sunday Ordinary Time
19th June 2016
Luke 9: 18-24
Deacon Tony van Vuuren
There is no stock answer to Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am?” Each and every day we all have to answer that question by the life style decisions we make; a willingness to be identified as Christ’s disciples; and our practice of self-denial for the welfare of others.
It is hard to imagine how one can become a routine Christian or a Christian in name only, if each day Jesus stands alongside us; and we must consider the response we will make. Discipleship is not a decision we make only once in our lives, or as an issue arising only when we are being severely tested. Responding to Jesus is a commitment that happens on a daily basis.
Jesus specified the kind of messiah He would be. He would be the suffering servant to all and give His life to overcome our pre-occupations, indifference, isolation and our submission to evil and sin, by personally taking on that sin and even death to set us free.
We, who declare our faith in Jesus, must then put our lives on the line the way Jesus did for us. Being His disciple is not a part time job; like something we become by just coming to mass on Sunday and occasionally doing a few good deeds during the week. Taking up the cross isn’t a part time practice we do on Good Friday, or when we are feeling strong and resilient. Nor is sacrifice in Jesus’ name something reserved for some specially selected martyrs whose names are inscribed on Christian monuments. Instead, Jesus says losing our lives for His sake; which means surrendering ourselves to Him, must be daily. It is not a part time religion; it’s a full-time following for all disciples!
Jesus asks us all to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
And this is the cross in Jesus’ invitation, “If anyone would come after me…”
This cross is not the suffering against which we have no options.
It is the cross we are free to pick up or put down; the cross that gives us the courage to stand out from the crowd and be brave enough to show our fidelity to Christ and His teachings.
Jesus did say that following Him means accepting a special suffering.
Fr Ron Rolheiser, in this weekend’s Southern Cross, puts the question that we might want to ask.
Why? Why should suffering enter into our lives more deeply because we take Jesus seriously? Shouldn’t the opposite be true? Does true religion somehow stand against our natural exuberance? Is suffering deep and joy superficial? And, what does this say about God? Is God masochistic? Does God want and demand our suffering? Why is a certain inflow of pain necessary for us to take God seriously? Pain will flow into us more deeply when we take God seriously not because God wants it or because pain is somehow more blessed than joy. None of these. Suffering and pain are not what God wants; they’re negatives, to be eliminated in heaven. But, to the extent that we take God seriously, they will flow more deeply into our lives because in a deeper opening to God we will stop falsely protecting ourselves against pain and become much more sensitive so that life can flow more freely and more deeply into us. In that sensitivity, we will stop unconsciously manipulating everything so as to keep ourselves secure and pain-free. Simply put, we are likely to experience deeper pain in our lives because, being more sensitive, we will be experiencing everything more deeply.
The opposite is also true. If someone, is so thick skinned, and so insensitive to life in general, their own insensitivity will surely immunize them against many sufferings and the pain of others will rarely disturb their peace of mind. Of course, they won’t experience personal meaning and joy very deeply either, but that’s the price tag for insensitivity. Fr Rolheiser writes that because of His extraordinary sensitivity; Jesus in His human state was simply not able to protect Himself against pain. He felt things more deeply and consequently was more liable to physical pain and weariness, more sensitive to human rejection and contempt, more affected by love and hate; less able to protect himself against the pain of betrayal.
Self-denial and the taking up of the cross is a serious and often difficult decision. But it is a decision we must make; for each of us must respond to Jesus Christ in verbal testimony and in the testimony of our lives. Thankfully we are not on our own to answer Jesus’ question. We are graced by the constant presence of the Holy Spirit and guided in how we answer that vital question as we start each new day.
Ref: Fr Ron Rolheiser: Why Faith can make us suffer.
Southern Cross. 19th June 2016