To be FOLLOWERS of Christ

September 12, 2021 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/091221.cfm)

A boy once asked his mother: “Mom, I am a Christian, right?” “Yes”, the mom replied “by baptism, you are a Christian.” The boy continued, “Then, who is a Christian?” The mom responded, “A follower of Jesus Christ”. The boy again asked, “Is He the one hanged and crucified on a cross?” The mom replied, “Yes, Jesus Christ suffered and gave up his life for us all so that we might have a better life with God.” After few minutes of silence, the boy said: “Since I am a Christian – a follower of Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life for us, would it mean that someday I will be like Jesus sacrificing oneself for the sake of others?”

In our gospel today, after asking his disciples about what people say about him, Jesus asked his disciples themselves who they believe Jesus is. Here Jesus is not asking for a mere public or personal opinion, but moreso for a personal faith – of who they believe Jesus is in their own life. After Peter’s testimony that He is the Christ, the expected Messiah and savior, though without confirming and denying, Jesus made it a point to them that He is a Suffering, Rejected and Murdered Christ. To fulfill his mission of salvation for all through our Father’s love, Jesus then must undergo suffering, rejection and dying on the cross. Through and by means of his sacrifice of suffering and giving up one’s life for the sake of all, Jesus is and becomes the Christ – the Messiah and Savior. And consequently, he warns all those who follow Him of the suffering ahead, saying: “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Thus, giving and showing us a way – a path to life and salvation, by losing one’s life for the sake of Christ and the gospel. In other words, our life and salvation through a life not for oneself but FOR Christ.

Perhaps we may ask ourselves now as Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ: Who is the Jesus Christ we believe in our life now? Be conscious that nowadays Jesus Christ has been presented or packaged to us in other many distorted ways. Several so-called Christians today in a corrupted way may have preached and believed in Jesus Christ as “Jesus without the cross” and/or “Cross without Jesus”. 

“Jesus without the Cross” belief is the Jesus of the prosperity gospel church, who preached not of a suffering and wounded Christ, but that of a healthy, smiling, laughing, good-looking Jesus who enjoys and offers us the good things and luxuries in life now, if and when we only follow and believe in Him. While “Cross without Jesus” belief is the Jesus of spiritual charismatic gospel church who preached a Jesus who suffered on the cross, but is now not here but in otherworld or heaven, who offers His followers salvation and life… later and in heaven. We must be aware of these two distorted ways of Jesus being presented and preached to us today, for it undermines the struggle, suffering and sacrifice Jesus has undergone, and we must undergo in life for our salvation.   

As true follower of Christ, we believe not in “Jesus without a cross” or “Cross without Jesus” but rather we believe in Jesus Christ WITH and ON a cross. The Jesus Christ we believe in then is the Jesus Christ whom He himself described in our gospel today, who suffered and was crucified on the cross, as well as the risen/resurrected but still wounded, cross-bearing Jesus Christ. Not only that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, our Christ and Savior; but also we believe that the way to our life and salvation with God as shown to us by Jesus, is through the path or the way of the CROSS. By following the example of Christ in humble submission to the Father’s will and our acceptance of our own crosses in life – thus losing ourselves For Christ and for the sake of others, we come to benefit and share from God’s grace of life and salvation.

The paradox of our Christian life is thus the way of the cross.

As Christians, we don’t follow Jesus out of and for the conveniences of what life can offer now, or we follow Him, suffering for the coming reward in the afterlife in heaven. Following Jesus and to be For Christ in life require of us the self-denial, sacrifices and struggle of the cross we undergo with life in the here and now. Just like for a woman to fully enjoy motherhood and family life now, she has to undergo the sufferings and pains of childbearing and child-rearing, so to with our Christian life. For us to fully benefit from God’s offer of life and salvation in our life now, we must undergo the suffering and sacrifice of our daily crosses, for the sake of Jesus Christ and others.  In other words, God’s offer of life and salvation to us only happens whenever we begin to lose ourselves for Christ through our suffering, sacrifices and dying for others.

Now back to the question of Jesus that requires our personal faith: “Who do you say I am?” “Who is the Jesus we believe in now?” Is He the “Jesus without a cross” who offers us life-conveniences now? Or Is He the “Cross without Jesus” who calls us to suffer now for the rewards in heaven and here-after? Or Is He the Risen but wounded, Suffering but resurrected Jesus Christ, who offers us God’s life and salvation now and always through and by means of the paradox of our daily crosses?

Lord, by your cross and resurrection, you have redeemed the world. Especially during these pandemic times, bear our crosses with us towards our life & resurrection now and always. Amen.

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