“What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
- Luke 9:25
Today’s Gospel reading has always been one of my favorites. All of us have probably faced adversity at one point or another in our lives that made us painfully aware of our duties as Catholics. Some of us maybe have even been in situations where we have faced rejection and scorn because of our beliefs. Jesus, in prophesying his own passion and death, also reminds us that the path of Truth is never going to be without its difficulties. You do not have to look very far to see the consequences of Original Sin in our world, and often this can result in great temptations or hardships for us as Catholics.
Society today stands dramatically against many of the teachings of the Church, especially in areas of sexual morality. Contraception and abortion are but two of a number of important issues that the Church has always taught are gravely immoral, but that society today tells us are “rights” entitled to all people. Standing up for our beliefs as Catholics, especially against these things is perhaps our greatest challenge of this day and age. It is certainly not easy at times, but as we are reminded in the first reading today, we stand between “life and prosperity, [and] death and doom” (Dt. 30:15).
This is why I love today’s Gospel. Christ puts before us a bold challenge: Do you really love me? Do you truly trust me? Then take up your own crosses each day and follow me! When we give in to the temptations of Satan and embrace the “death and doom” promulgated by our society, we lose ourselves, that is, our Catholic identity.
Yes, at times, the road is difficult and we get lost or tired. And yes, at times, we feel like the teachings of the Church do not always make sense. The responsorial psalm today reminds us: Blessed are they who hope in the LORD! This is where faith enters in. When we pick up our own crosses each day, we are not only making a statement of our faith and hope in God, we are embracing that “life and prosperity” that can only be found in Jesus!
Today is the memorial of St. Polycarp, Bishop and Martyr. St. Polycarp was put to death by the Romans for refusing renounce his Christian faith and accept their pagan ways. His hope in the Lord was so great, his love for Christ so unquenchable, he was willing to pick up the martyr’s cross and die for Jesus.
Will we follow Jesus today? Will we bravely stand up for our Catholic faith and all that it holds true? I pray each day that the Lord will grant me the strength to bear this cross with him, and I pray that you too will carry it with us.