In today’s Gospel, Jesus spells out the demands of discipleship.
Anyone who wishes to follow Jesus must “renounce himself and take up
his cross.” Jesus continues, “For anyone who wants to save his life
will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his
Those words of Jesus encapsulate the central paradox of Christianity.
To lose one’s life-for the sake of Jesus- is to gain it. And to
gain the whole world at the expense of losing one’s soul is, to put it
quite simply, nothing. To use another translation, what does it profit
a man to gain the whole world but to lose his soul in the process?
This is the question that St. Ignatius Loyola quoted to St. Francis
Xavier at the University of Paris, and it ultimately led to the
conversion of St. Francis from a man of the world to a man of God.
If we reflect on the life of a priest or a nun or any person that gave
his or her life to the service of Our Lord, we find plenty of rewards
… spiritual rewards. Some of these individuals may have made their
commitments very early in their lives or some later in their lives. At
what point in life the commitment was made does not matter; it is the
wholeheartedness of that commitment that matters.
Even today, we can find many role models … priests, nuns, lay
religious, some people as common as you and me. Their genuine care for
the well being of other people drives them to dedicate their time and
talent to help others and their communities. In fulfilling their tasks,
in a way, they deny their own freedoms, their free time, but in doing
so they welcome Our Lord into their lives and allow Him to freely
direct their ideas and actions.
Perhaps what Our Lord is reminding us today through the Gospel is that
“sacrifice and service for others” need not be negative. Rather, if we
give our time and ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord’s will, to serve
others, we can find fulfillment, happiness and peace in our lives.
Are we ready to rise to God’s challenge?
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my
understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess. You have
given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours,
dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your
grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola,