Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. The Ireland in which we live is becoming more plural and diverse every day. In such an environment, becoming a Christian and remaining a Christian is something that requires us to choose and commit to.
At a time of growing indifference towards religion, pressure is coming on us to decide, to make a choice regarding where we stand in relation to God, Christ and the Church. This is good for it forces us to think about what we really believe. What do I think about the person of Christ? Do I believe he was divine or just another moral teacher? Who is he for me? In his own words: ‘Who do you say I am?’
The passage today from Mark is the hinge of the whole Gospel. For the disciples, it is decision time. They have been in Jesus’ company now for a few years and now is the time Jesus chooses to ask them the question that will define everything. ‘Friends, you have seen my goodness, my miracles, you have heard my preaching and teaching. Now, who do you say I am?’ Peter speaks up for all of them and clarifies that he believes that Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah. But is this enough for Jesus? Evidently not. Saying we believe is one thing. Being committed to that faith is another.
Jesus then goes on to make an extraordinary demand of his friends. He asks that those who believe in him must renounce themselves, take up their cross and follow him. To those who heard these words, they were left in no doubt as to what was required of them. Jesus was asking for their commitment to him, to his ways and to his love. The taking up of one’s cross meant no little sacrifice and no small commitment. Yet the Lord did not draw back in asking for it. Nor did he apologise for it or sugar-coat it.
Time and time again we are also asked to renew our commitment to our faith and to the practice of it. If we believe like Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God then all of what we do must be ordered around him. Does that mean a basic commitment to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Yes. Does that mean a basic commitment to justice and peace? Yes. Does that mean a basic commitment to Sunday Mass and regular recourse to the Sacrament of Penance? Yes.
Friends, Jesus calls us to be committed to greatness, not to mediocrity. He calls us to be committed to him as he was committed to his Father’s will, even when it meant facing down those who ‘struck me, tore at my beard and covered my face with insult and spittle’ (First reading). Commitment to Jesus and our faith in him will not go unrewarded but will translate into blessings for us and for all. Commitment is what transforms promise into reality. Let us not be afraid of it.