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Following Only the Lord
Thursday after Ash Wednesday
Jesus said to his disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, you created me for communion with you. Your ways are not always easy for me to recognize, so grant me the grace to be better able to discern your path for me. I also pray for a stronger faith to follow that path which you have established, even when there is suffering along the way.
- Rejection: Jesus foretold his Passion, death, and Resurrection to his disciples immediately after Simon Peter professed that he was the Messiah. These themes are often referred to as “summing up the paschal mystery,” which is proclaimed each time we recite the Creed. But, along with suffering and death, there is another ignominy on which we should reflect: the almost universal rejection of the Son of God by the religious authorities. These learned men, students of the Old Testament and all of its prophecies, should have seen Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. However, pride and fear of losing power prevented them from proper discernment, and instead prompted them to mock and ridicule their King. Today, each of us may proudly say that we wouldn’t dare cause Christ to suffer, that we certainly wouldn’t nail him to a cross. But do we reject any of his teachings, perhaps even mock or ridicule them? What about his “hard teachings” (John 6:60)? Let us humble ourselves to allow the whole Gospel, and thus the whole Kingdom of God, to reign in our hearts.
- Taking up the Cross: Long before the scene in today’s Gospel, Jesus invited Simon and Andrew, and James and John, to follow him (Matthew 4:19-21). They and the other disciples had answered the call and begun to understand what following Jesus meant: long hours and exhaustion on one hand, but edification and exhilaration on the other. Now Jesus’ closest followers would learn that if they were to keep following him, there would be immense suffering. Nearly all of them would flee from it, leaving Our Lord alone on Golgotha. Later, however, aided by the Holy Spirit, most of them would ultimately embrace their cross, and a fledgling church would spread. As Tertullian famously proclaimed, “The blood of the martyrs (Greek for “witness”) is the seed of the Church.”
- Taking a Stand: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Jesus’ seemingly rhetorical question about gain and loss demands that we all take a stand. Gaining the whole world and all of its gold and glitter is a tempting proposition. Jesus would be tempted by this very proposal in the desert, as the devil promised, “All this will be yours, if you worship me.” He responded to the devil as we must respond: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Luke 4:6-8). Lord, grant me the grace to see the gold and glitter of this world for what it is, and to choose the better part (Luke 10:42).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I am sorry for the rejection that you encountered when you walked this earth, and for the times when I have left you alone in the tabernacle or chose to consider your teachings as less than authoritative. Help me during this upcoming Lent to cultivate a habit of standing by you and defending your teachings.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will contemplate the suffering that you endured in your Passion and death, and the rejection that you felt, and examine my conscience as to whether I am rejecting any of your teachings.
For Further Reflection: Reflecting on how many rejected Jesus, consider watching this rendition of “Were You There” by Three Mo’ Tenors.
Andrew Rawicki and his wife, JoAnna, live in Irving, Texas, near seven of their nine grandchildren. A convert from Judaism, Andrew entered the Church in 1991 and has been a member of the Regnum Christi spiritual family since 2001. He has served as the Regnum Christi Local Director for Dallas since July 2020.