12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 19, 2016
“Then he said to all, if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake. That man will save it.”
Life is filled with risks. We all know this. Often what seems to be the safest course of action can turn out to be the riskiest thing of all. The advice that Jesus gives today touches on the very heart of what we think life is all about: what am I here for? What is the purpose of my life?
If my answer to these questions is to simply pursue the accumulation of things and money, pleasure, great experiences, and self-fulfillment, I may be tempted to live a life that always puts myself first. Such a life, Jesus warns, runs the grave risk of coming up empty in the end, because the purpose of life is not really about myself at all – it is about what I give to others. Many go through life without ever realizing this and they lose much of the precious time that has been allotted to us. Ironically, when we take the risk of giving ourselves away, we find out who we really are. We discover that self-fulfillment comes from self-giving. We find that the gifts and talents that we have been given are meant for others, not just ourselves.
It used to be that the safest investment you could have would be to put your money in the bank. But now that banks are paying what is called a “negative interest rate” (the rate of return is less than the real rate of inflation), what seems to be “safe” may be the riskiest investment of all. When I decided to become a priest, I had to leave behind a familiar and comfortable world and strike out into the great unknown. I knew it was what God wanted me to do, but the risk of potential failure was very real. But the risk of holding onto what we have and not giving to others is far greater than the risk of giving and being rejected, or the risk of trying and failing. There is an old saying that it is better to go into the arena and battle the lions and fail than it is to sit in the bleachers and watch and never try anything!
So this is the paradox of the gospel: notice that Christ is offering us a cross every day:
each day that we live is filled with little risks and occasionally very big ones. Renouncing ourselves is a risk! For it is easier to go for the immediate pleasure than to reach out and accept the cross that God is offering. Most of these renunciations, or crosses, are very common and we don’t realize the value that they represent. For many of us, it will be the small renunciations that come with family life – a child acts up – a spouse that has been in a bad mood lately. In what way might God be asking you to die to yourself for someone else? Every time the Lord does, it is a growth opportunity. Each of these moments, and they are many, represent the best investments we will ever make, if we only recognize the opportunity we are given when we take a risk for God.