If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his own cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life, for my sake, will save it.
- Mark 8:27-35
Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was a big one. Not for its length, but for the effect it could have on our lives. This week we are going to take a section of the Gospel, which you can read above, and look at it bit-by-bit.
Jesus is telling us to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. This is a pretty huge command. Why should we ‘renounce ourselves’? What does that even mean? To renounce means to reject or abandon something. So, do we have to sell everything we own and wear a sack for clothes like the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones? Well, maybe…but we don’t have to do that (and I’m certainly not recommending it!).
For me, renouncing myself as Jesus tells us to means not living my life by my own way, but by God’s way. We can often think we know best, and that we know what we want and what is best for us, but when we do this we often find ourselves at dead ends, or things go wrong and we get in a mess! When we follow our own desires, we ultimately find ourselves unhappy and unfulfilled, having followed things that don’t make us truly happy.
This is what Jesus is telling us to renounce in this passage: our own imperfect ways! Instead we can take the path God is laying out for our lives. Let’s let all our worldly desires go, because they will only fail us. Instead let’s follow God, and let his love into our lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean forcing ourselves into poverty and spending every moment praying in Church, but it means living our lives the way God wants us to. It means saying to God, during good times, as well as the bad and just plain uncertain: ‘God, I’m trusting you here. Please guide me through this.’ At University, I often found myself out of my comfort zone: be it with friendships and relationships or with an essay that would just not write itself. I wouldn’t always turn to God, sometimes trying to plough through my troubles myself or other times simply burying my head in my duvet. These were both sure fire ways to burn out or get a rubbish mark on my work. But when I did turn to God, I found that I had renewed strength, and peace in my heart. I found myself being closer to the best version of myself that I knew- the person God made me to be!
This links in to the next part of the sentence, when Jesus tells us to ‘take up your cross and follow me’. We can take our cross to mean the heavy things we carry through life; our burdens and responsibilities, worries and fears, and all the rest. Being a Christian comes with burdens. It means we can’t always do what we want to in the moment, or that we are judged by those who stereotype people of faith. It can mean that we have to drag ourselves out of bed on a Sunday morning to get to Mass- as the team did this week, we got drenched! But the beauty of our faith is that we know Jesus is with us through all of this. By willingly taking up His own cross, and dying on it, he shares in all our burdens, all our fears and worries, all our wet and windy walks to Mass! He is with us through it all, and all He asks is that we stay with Him on our journey of life, because He loves us and wants to be with us.
Lord, you came to Earth to share in all our sufferings, both great and small. Help us to trust you, and to follow your path in our lives. Please be with us, because we cannot carry our crosses without you. Amen.