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The conditions of discipleship

Gospel Reading: Mt 16:24-28
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

DENY HIMSELF, TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME
Peter was shocked and offended by the thought that the cross was God’s will for Jesus (cf Mt 16:21-23), and now Jesus deepens the offense by reminding the disciples that the cross is God’s will for them, too (cf vv 24-26). In laying down the conditions for discipleship, Jesus pairs the cross, the symbol of suffering, with a picture of triumph: “The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory” (v 27). The effect of contrasting the humility of carrying a cross with the glory of God’s victory is to highlight the difference for people of faith between appearance and reality and the distinction that Peter blurred between “divine things” and “human things” (cf Mt 16:23). The cross is paradoxical. From the vantage point of the world, nothing could be more self-defeating, foolish, wasteful, tragic, and cruel. But in God’s eyes the cross is triumph. Suffering on behalf of others may appear to be pouring one’s life down the bottomless drain of human need, but in the Kingdom it is what it means to save one’s life (cf v 25). It is the mystery of the Gospel that what appears to crush everything one hopes to be as a human being – bearing the cross of service and suffering – is in fact the only way for a human being to be fully alive (cf vv 25-26).

“For the Son of Man will come… and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct” (Mt 16:27).

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.

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