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Offer your life if you don’t want to lose it

The apostles were convinced that the kingdom of God was imminent. But they believed in an earthly kingdom. 
They had followed Jesus to see their dreams of glory fulfilled. The only question pending was to determine who would be entitled to the first places of honour (Mark 9:34).
It is in this context that the first of the three announcements of the Passion is placed. Jesus does not want his disciples to follow him while wallowing in vain illusions. 
To avoid any ambiguity, he openly declares that he is not walking towards triumph, but he is going to Jerusalem to suffer, to be killed and be raised again on the third day.
The disciples cannot understand; they have learned from the scribes that the Messiah cannot die. Peter, in the name of all, reacts.
He is not willing to commit himself to an absurd project. Peter takes the master apart and questions his intent. Jesus is almost irritated as he says, “Get behind me, Satan.” 
Peter makes a proposal that comes from worldly wisdom, from human foolishness that is senseless in God’s eyes.
Peter is acting just like Satan who tried to convince Jesus to focus on dominion and the quest for power; a typical strategy used often by Satan (Matthew 4:8-10). 
Now the same temptation, advanced by Peter, has to be responded to with the same firm hand.
“Off with you Satan!” Simon had professed his faith in the Son of the living God. Now he becomes a stumbling block, because he lets himself be guided by human reasoning.
After rebuking Peter, Jesus turns to all and unequivocally puts his demands forward. There is no attempt to mitigate them, to make them more acceptable.
Three imperatives characterise the radicalism of a choice that does not admit delays or second thoughts: “Deny yourself, take up the cross, follow me.”
Deny yourself means you stop thinking about yourself. It is the rejection of the pursuit of our own interest, the will to achieve gratification, acknowledgements and benefits. Even in the most pure acts of love there is often some veiled forms of selfishness and ambition.
The second imperative, take up the cross, does not refer to the need to patiently endure the small or big tribulations of life, even less, the exaltation of pain as a means to please God. 
The cross is a sign of love and of total gift. To carry it after Christ means to follow the way he has trodden: to offer your life for his ideals, confront death even, if needed.
The third imperative, follow me, is to take part in my project, bet your life on love, together with me.
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications