In today’s gospel Jesus asks his apostles that famous question: “Who do people say that I am?” His disciples offer various replies. Now imagine Jesus walking along with any of us. We can imagine Jesus stopping, looking into our eyes, and saying: “Now who do you say that I am?” This question goes to our hearts. And each of us will answer it in different ways. Now pay attention to what Jesus says next “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me….whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
There is an important truth buried in the connection between these two teachings: we can only answer that “who do you say I am?” question out of our experience of taking up the cross as Jesus did. Sometimes we pick up the cross through taking an unpopular position; sometimes it comes in the hidden care of a chronically ill relative or friend; often it happens as we endure those pinches of reality that bring unwanted suffering in ways we do not plan. Thus our “cross-bearing” becomes a life-changing, redemptive experience. It’s all about the business of losing our lives as we walk with Jesus…Jesus who throws us into relationship with one another, relationships grounded in God’s own generous, life-giving love.