1) OPENING PRAYER
Lord our God,
You love us and You invite us
to share in Your own life and joy,
through a personal decision.
Help us to choose You and life
and to remain ever loyal
to this basic option
by the power of Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who was loyal to You and to us, now and forever.
2) GOSPEL READING - LUKE 9: 22-25
Jesus said to his disciples: "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?"
Yesterday we entered into the season of Lent. Up until now the daily Liturgy followed the Gospel of Mark, step by step. Beginning yesterday until Easter, the sequence of the readings of the day will be dictated by the ancient tradition of Lent and of preparation for Easter. From the very first day, the perspective is that of the Passion, Death and Resurrection and of the meaning which this mystery has for our life. This is what is proposed in the rather brief text of today’s Gospel. The text speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus and affirms that the following of Jesus presupposes that we carry our cross after Jesus.
Before, in Luke 9:18-21, Jesus asks, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered giving different opinions: John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the ancient prophets. After having heard the opinions of others, Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “The Christ of God!” that is, the Lord is the one awaited by the people! Jesus agrees with Peter, but He orders and charges them not to say this to anyone. Why did Jesus forbid this? Because at that time everybody was expecting the Messiah, but each one according to his own mind: some as king, others as priest, doctor, warrior, judge or prophet! Jesus thinks in a different way. He identifies Himself with the Messiah, servant and suffering, announced by Isaiah (42:1-9; 52:13-53:12)
The first announcement of the Passion. Jesus begins to teach that He is the Messiah, the Servant and affirms that, as Messiah, the Servant announced by Isaiah, soon He will be put to death in the carrying out of His mission of justice (Is 49: 4-9; 53:1-12). Luke usually follows the Gospel of Mark, but here he omits the reaction of Peter, who advised Jesus against or tried to dissuade Him from thinking of the suffering Messiah and he also omits the hard response: “Far from me, Satan! Because you do not think as God, but as men!” Satan is a Hebrew word which means accuser, the one who draws others far away from the path of God. Jesus does not allow Peter to get Him away from His mission.
Conditions to follow Jesus. Jesus draws conclusions valid even until now: “If anyone wants to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross every day and follow Me.” At that time the cross was the death penalty which the Roman Empire gave to marginalized criminals. To take up the cross and to carry it following Jesus was the same as accepting to be marginalized by the unjust system which legitimized injustices. It was the same as to break away from the system. As St. Paul says in the letter to the Galatians, “The world has been crucified for Me and I to the world” (Gal 6:14). The cross is not fatalism, neither is it an exigency from the Father. The Cross is the consequence of the commitment freely assumed by Jesus to reveal the Good News that God is Father, and that, therefore, we all should be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary announcement, He was persecuted and He was not afraid to deliver His own life. There is no greater proof of love than to give one’s life for one’s brother or sister.
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
Everybody was waiting for the Messiah, each one in his/her own way. Which is the Messiah whom I await and whom people today await?
The condition to follow Jesus is the cross. How do I react before the crosses of life?
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
How blessed is anyone who rejects the advice of the wicked
and does not take a stand in the path that sinners tread,
nor a seat in company with cynics,
but who delights in the law of Yahweh
and murmurs His law day and night. (Ps 1:1-2)