Prayer of Presence:
Here I am as fully in your presence as I am able to be,
Offering my fears, my needs, my hopes, my love, and my life.
For I am yours and belong to no other.
(From 40 Days of with Wesley by Rueben P. Job, p. 29)
Scripture: Today’s reading is from the Gospel of Mark 8:34-38
He (Jesus) called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
The disciples could expect to be reviled, persecuted, and spoken ill of on account of Christ (Matthew 5:10-11). The only way they could endure such treatment was by self-denial. That is why Jesus said, “If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Self-love increases our pride and exposes our sensitivities to insult, attacks, and rebuffs. The more we are able to renounce our self, the more we are able to be at peace within ourselves and with God in the face of loss, fears, threats, violence, even death. Our bodies may experience suffering and pain, our ego insults, and our good name tarnishing, but our soul remains untouched and at peace in God as we carry our earthly cross for the sake of Christ. “Therefore,” says St. Paul, “I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.When I am weak, says St. Paul, then, God is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).
So, we are not ashamed to evangelistically and prophetically speak up and stand up for Christ because – through self-denial – we are “not afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4). The horror of the cross loses its power when there is no self to suffer under it. We can hold all things in this life dearly but loosely, hand them over to God confidently, and trust fully on God’s salvation and vindication when our earthly tents waste away and our souls migrate into the forever heart and life of God where all is at peace and rest.
Questions for Reflection: