daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer
Homily of Friday, 6th Week of the Year, February 20, 2009
Gen 11:1-9; Ps 32; Mk 8:34 9:1

"And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk 8:34).

First of all, we see that this difficult teaching is for all; not only for a special group. Jesus preached it to "the multitude" (Mk 8:34). In it, he tells us what we must do to be his followers. The first thing he says is that we are to deny ourselves. This is the same Greek word that is used when Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times (Mk 14:30). It is a strong expression, and here it means to disregard our natural desires and likings for pleasure so that we can take up our cross and sacrifice ourselves for the love of Christ. We are to make our life a sacrifice of praise to God, a hymn of praise, poured out in love and self-gift, in union with Christ's own sacrifice of himself in love to his Father. We are to do what Christ did, and to do it with him.

We are to lose our life in this world for Christ and for the Gospel. He who does this will save his life; and he who does not do this will lose his life in God (Mk 8:35). In other words, we are to live a sacrificial life in this world; not a life of luxury and pleasure, not a life of self-seeking. Our life should be an offering poured out in love to God.

We are to live only for God; not for ourselves. In this we are to follow the example of Christ's life and of his death on the cross, for "he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Cor 5:15). We will follow this example if we live no longer for ourselves and for our pleasures, but for him who died for us.

We are to deny ourselves. We are to live not for ourselves, but only for him, not serving ourselves and our own pleasures but serving him alone as our only Lord (Mt 6:24), and doing so with all our heart (Mk 12:30), not with a heart divided among the pleasures of this world, but with an undivided heart, for "None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord" (Rom 14:7-8).

In this way we lose our life for him (Mk 8:35), we hate our life in this world for love of him (Jn 12:25). We deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him (Mk 8:34). The cross both saves us and teaches us how to live. It is the mystery we are to live. We are to pour out our life in love for God, rather than live for our own pleasures. We are to live a life of sacrifice out of love for God. We do so by living in accordance with his will, without being ashamed of it (Mk 8:38), for his will will cause us to suffer in this world. It will direct us to live for God alone and deny ourselves for the love of him, pouring ourselves out in sacrifice, as a hymn of praise to God.




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