No matter how you read today’s passage from the Gospel, the choice Christ offers is clear and stark. There is no middle ground. It is life or death for us. Moses was just as clear to the Israelites: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).
Now let’s recall Jesus’s words in the Gospel: “… Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Those words lead us to ask ourselves some questions: Is my greatest concern to gain the kind of life Christ is talking about, eternal life, for myself and those I love? Can I truly say I’m choosing life by cleaving to him above all else?
We see it time and time again in Sacred Scripture, that life with Christ demands a total surrender that is not characterized with subtle conditions, human calculations or personal preferences.
Think about it: How many times have we all determined that we are giving enough to God, while not noticing, however, just how empty of him we actually are. We give to God from the things we’ve received from Him, but how rarely do we give ourselves unreservedly to Him. In doing so, we only cheat ourselves of a living experience of Christ and a love for his kingdom that would fill our heart and strengthen our spirit.
Here is another way to better understand today’s readings. St. John tells us in his 1st letter (4:8) that “God is love.” In his Gospel (3:16) he says: “God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son…” The best way to understand “what love is” and “how to love” is to study how God loves. Love is the total gift of self. The more we reflect on how God loves us, the easier it is to imitate him and give ourselves totally back to him “with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength” (Mark 12:30).
To the degree we give the total gift of ourselves to God, to that same degree our love of self and our love of others is genuine. To the degree our love of God is only partial, our love of self and love of neighbor is selfish.
After Baptism, we begin the difficult journey on the path of life by embracing the cross God gives us: that is, by embracing God’s loving work to refashion us into a perfect image of his Son, Jesus. The more docile we are to this work of the Holy Spirit, the lighter the cross is. The more we resist the Holy Spirit’s interior work, the heavier it is.
Lord, we know that our disordered passions and weaknesses lead us away from you. Help each of us to re-order our lives. With your Sacred Heart as our light, we know we need not fear the loss of anything on this earth as long as we have preserved you in our lives. Lord, help us draw closer to you and learn to live more like you: help us give you the total gift of ourselves. Amen.