Follow Me: A Reflection from the Christian Traditions Posted August 28, 2020 by admin@interfaith


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A Reflection from the Christian Traditions
Matthew 16:21-27
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
Most of the time I am content to “believe” in Jesus. I believe in the beauty of the life he lived. I am astonished by his compassion and quite attracted to the wisdom of his parables and challenged by the example of his life. On those days, when hope wears thin, I am lifted up by the presence of Jesus conveyed in something so simple as reading a Bible passage like, “Come to me all you who labor and I will refresh you” (see Matthew 11: 28). 

I love being “refreshed” by Jesus. The Lord can be my comfort and my peace. All I need to do is believe, trust, and, perhaps, hand my life over to Jesus. As the adage goes, “Do with me what you please.” All of this might be to some degree challenging, but it was designed to give us comfort and peace of mind.  
The upcoming Gospel for the Twenty-second Sunday is troublesome and disturbing (see Matthew 16: 21-27). Jesus teaches and instructs his would-be disciples to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. These three aspects of the authentic spiritual life are earthshaking ideas in a culture based on “what’s in it for me.” The politically expedient folk are always asking the selfish question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Finally, the dictum, “It’s the economy, stupid!” places profit over person and ideology over humaneness. The Cross of Jesus is offered as the antidote. But wait, there is more and it might prove to be even more disturbing or transforming.  
The “denial of self” is no less than the realization I am not alone. I live in the family of humankind with a sense of responsibility to my neighbors across the street and across the World. The “denial of self” is the refusal to be tempted by selfish ways realizing the joys of companionship with others. I am invited by Jesus to “take up my Cross,” that is, to find my purpose in life, to commit myself to my passion as I forego isolation and indifference. The Cross became the banner of Jesus’ life lived for the well-being and love of others. He protested against the powers of injustice, hate, and violence. His Cross became the sign of his willingness to “lift up” the lowly, welcome the stranger, and cherish the sinner. I am invited to “take up” my Cross, my cause, my passion, not fall under it. Finally, I am called to “follow” him and not simply believe in him unless belief and trust mean to follow after Jesus in each step I take, moment by moment and day by day.  
Peter is scandalized by this teaching of Jesus. His love for Jesus wants to secure Jesus and make him safe from all harm. Peter loves Jesus but now will need to learn loving Jesus is the same as loving who Jesus loves. Unbounded love is never safe. Peter will soon learn what we must never forget. The Cross of Jesus is the banner of courage, the sign of hope, the source of blessing, and the commitment to live or die in the cause of what is right, good, true, and just.
I, like Peter, must not hold Jesus back. I must learn to follow him on the pathways of justice, the highways of peace, and the byways of compassion. 
Bless you, Beloved Community, for taking up your Cross, your passions and convictions, and teaching people like me what it means to follow after him, come what may.