"I tell you that you have less to suffer in following the cross than in serving the world and its pleasures. “ - Saint John Marie Vianney
Gospel text (Mk 8:34-9:1): Jesus called the people and his disciples and said, «If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it. What good is it to gain the whole world but destroy yourself? There is nothing you can give to recover your life. I tell you: If anyone is ashamed of me and of my words among this adulterous and sinful people, 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 went on to say, «Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the kingdom of God coming with power».
Today’s Gospel speaks of two contemporary themes: the cross we all have to bear every day and its fruit, that is, Life with capital letters, supernatural and eternal.
When we listen to the Gospel, we stand up as a sign that we want to follow its teachings. Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, not to follow “the pleasure of our whims” —as the psalmist claims— or, as S aint Paul cites, to get rid of “the deceiving greeds”. To take up our own cross is to accept the little mortifications we find every day along the way.
We can be helped out by what Jesus said in his priestly sermon at the cenacle: «I am the true vine, and my Father is the dresser. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful» (Jn 15:1-2). A hopeful gardener pampering the grapes so they bear the best wine! Yes, we want to follow our Lord! Yes, we are conscious the Father wishes to help us so our branches bear an abundant fruit in our earthly life which we can later enjoy in the Eternal Life.
Saint Ignatious used to guide saint Francis Xavier with the words of today's text: «What good is it to gain the whole world but destroy yourself?» (Mk 8:36). This is how he got appointed the patron of Missions. With the same idea in our minds, we can read the last canon of the Canon Law Code (n. 1752): «(...) and the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one's eyes». And saint Augustine also has his famous lesson: «Animam salvasti, animam tuam praedestinasti», which could be translated as: «He who dedicates himself with true zeal to the salvation of souls has thus good reasons to hope for eternal life». The invitation is quite clear.
The Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, helps us to advance in this way.