The Gospel today contains three powerful challenges.
The followers of Jesus must deny themselves. When we think of denying oneself, we think of giving up something we like doing without some pleasure or luxury. But Jesus is asking even more. He is asking us to say no to self and yes to God.
The followers of Jesus must take up their cross. The Christian may have to sacrifice personal ambition to serve Christ. He or she may be called upon to sacrifice time and leisure to serve God and his or her fellow persons. Giving up a recreation experience, or personal time, to visit the lonely, care for the elderly, to reach out in service to the poor.
The disciple must indeed follow Jesus. We are to be about constant obedience to Christ in thought, words, and actions.
In his book The Status Game, British journalist Will Storr makes the case that human beings are deeply driven by status. Status isn’t about being liked or accepted – it’s about being better than others, getting more. Storr observes: “When people defer to us, offer respect, admiration or praise or allow us to influence them in some way, that’s status. It feels good.
The drive for status has made life a series of games, Storr writes. There’s the high school game of competition to be the popular kid. The lawyer game to make partner. The finance game to make the most money. The academic game for prestige. The sports game to show that our team is best.
The powerful challenges of Jesus in today’s Gospel are not about humiliating ourselves, or making ourselves miserable, or focusing on our failings, but rather that we do not give into the game playing of status and prestige.
To follow Jesus is to give up the status game and instead, help to create a world that reflects the compassion, justice, and peace of Christ.
Image: “Board Game” by Openverse is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.