1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
we believe in you with all our being.
Let this faith never be a lifeless belief
in abstract truths outside ourselves,
but a deep personal commitment
to your Son Jesus Christ.
Give us the courage, we pray you,
to live for our brothers and sisters
and if need be to lose our life for them
and for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 8,34-9,1
Jesus called the people and his disciples to him and said, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
What gain, then, is it for anyone to win the whole world and forfeit his life? And indeed what can anyone offer in exchange for his life?
For if anyone in this sinful and adulterous generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.'
And he said to them, 'In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'
• Today’s Gospel speaks about the conditions necessary to follow Jesus. Peter does not understand the proposal of Jesus when he speaks about suffering and of the cross. Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah, but not a Suffering Messiah. Before this misunderstanding of Peter, Jesus describes the announcement of the Cross and explains the significance of the cross for the life of the disciples (Mk 8, 27 to 9, 1).
• Historical context of Mark: In the years 70’s, when Mark writes, the situation of the communities was not easy. There was much suffering, there were many crosses. Six years before, in 64, the Emperor Nero had decreed the first great persecution, killing many Christians. In the year 70, in Palestine, the Romans were destroying Jerusalem. In the other countries an enormous tension between converted Jews and non converted Jews was beginning to arise. The greatest difficulty was the Cross of Jesus. The Jews thought that a crucified person could not be the Messiah, because the law affirmed that any crucified person should be considered a cursed person by God (Dt 21, 22-23).
• Mark 8, 34-37: Conditions to follow Jesus. Jesus draws the conclusions which are valid for the disciples, for the Christians of the time of Mark and for us who are living today: If anyone wants to follow me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me! At that time the cross was death penalty which the Roman Empire attributed to the marginalized. To take up the Cross and follow him meant, definitively, to accept to be marginalized by the unjust system which legitimized injustice. The Cross was not the fruit of fatalism of history, nor demanded by the Father. The Cross is the consequence of the freely assumed commitment by Jesus to reveal the Good News of the One who is Father and that, therefore, all have to be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary announcement, he was persecuted and he was not afraid to give his own life. There is no greater love than to give one’s life for one’s brother. Immediately, after Mark inserts two separate phrases of the text.
• Mark 8, 38-9, 1: Two phrases: a requirement and an announcement. The first one (Mk 8, 38) is the requirement not to be ashamed of the Gospel, but to have the courage to profess it. The second one (Mk 9, 1), is an announcement about the coming or the presence of Jesus in the facts of life. Some thought that Jesus would have come afterwards (1 Th 4, 15-18). But in fact, Jesus had already come and was already present in the persons, especially in the poor. But they were not aware of this. Jesus himself had said: “Every time that you helped the poor, the sick, the homeless, the imprisoned, the pilgrim it was me!” (cfr, Mt 25, 34-45).
4) For Personal Confrontation
• Which is the cross that weighs down on me and which makes my life heavy? How do I bear it?
• To gain or to lose life; to gain the whole world or to lose the soul; to be ashamed of the Gospel or to profess it publicly. How does this take place in my life?
5) Concluding Prayer
How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,
who delights in his commandments!
His descendants shall be powerful on earth,
the race of the honest shall receive blessings. (Ps 112,1-2)