18th Week in Ordinary Time – Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major
1st Reading: Na 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7
See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed. The LORD will restore the vine of Jacob, the pride of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined the tendrils. Woe to the bloody city, all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops! The crack of the whip, the rumbling sounds of wheels; horses a-gallop, chariots bounding, Cavalry charging, the flame of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon! I will cast filth upon you, disgrace you and put you to shame; Till everyone who sees you runs from you, saying, “Nineveh is destroyed; who can pity her? Where can one find any to console her?”
Gospel: Mt 16:24-28
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay each according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP: Jesus had very clear goals for his disciples to fulfil. According to Mark, Jesus appointed the twelve, “to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mk 3:14-15). It is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus. It demands a cost. Jesus demands self-denial; not denying something to the self but dying to one’s ego and ambitions. Taking up one’s cross: the acceptance of challenges and persecutions on account of the Gospel. Ultimately it is life that matters. The language of Jesus, denying, losing in order to gain, losing in order to find, is contradictory in nature. Surrendering oneself to the will of God is essential to follow Jesus. The nature of human person is to seek for profit in whatever he/she does. Anyone who is not ready to pay the cost cannot be a genuine disciple of Jesus.
Prayer: Lord give me courage to be your disciple.
ETERNAL LIFE AT STAKE: The question of Jesus is ever pertinent, “What good will it be for man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” St. Augustine, and St. Francis Xavier are among the many saints who challenged by these words, made a turn-around in life. We need to make our choice between life and death (Dt 30.19). Following Jesus, carrying our daily cross, is the way to real life. People who abhor pain and run after pleasure might find it hard to understand this. Most people in our times seem to have very little concern about what is going to happen to their soul. With focus on the gains of the world man is blind about the value of the soul and life after death. Cravings for pleasure, power and profit have gone so much into the psyche of the human mind that he is unable to think much about the things that last. We need to be constantly reminded that we have no lasting city here (Heb 13.14). Death is the surest reality when all shall remain behind. How long shall we forfeit the eternal?