Memory of the Church

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Memorial of Shabbaz Bhatti, Minister of Minorities in Pakistan, a Christian, killed by terrorists because of his commitment in the search of pace and dialogue in 2011.


Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Luke 9,22-25

He said, 'The Son of man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.' Then, speaking to all, he said, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, will save it. What benefit is it to anyone to win the whole world and forfeit or lose his very self?

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This passage from Luke’s Gospel, together with the one from Deuteronomy, (30:15-20) the first reading of today’s Mass, set us on the path of this Lenten season. The passage from Deuteronomy, which contains part of Moses’ third speech to the people of Israel, sets us before two paths, the path of good and the path of evil. The Lord has great respect for our liberty. He does not force us to do good, he proposes it to us, because goodness can only be the fruit of love. And he says to us: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.” Yes, life means loving, while death means following evil. In fact, if we stray from God and His commandments, he warns us, “I declare to you today that you shall perish.” During this season it is good to reflect on the responsibility that confronts each one of us: the choice between the good path and the evil path. In the Gospel passage we just heard, Jesus himself returns to this theme. He says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” We all naturally try to think about ourselves, to save ourselves from every difficulty, every problem, and every source of anxiety. Above all we think about ourselves and our self-affirmation. The evil instinct of self-love is rooted in the heart of every man and woman. This instinct, which pushes us to think only of ourselves, is accompanied by a lack of interest in others and often even by hostility towards them, especially if we think of them as potential enemies. Jesus warns, “What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” The thirst for profit at all costs is like a fever that never leaves us. It is like a constant fever that brings us to ruin. How many lives are sacrificed on the altar of profit! How many families and relationships are burned so that profit can be the most important thing! Jesus teaches us another way. And he does not teach with words, but by his example. He is going to Jerusalem to save us, to love us, even if this choice also brings suffering and death. But on “the third day” he will rise to a new and full life. Jesus is not the powerful and strong Messiah that the people would like him to be. He came to give his life in ransom for all. His strength is not human strength, but the strength of a love that knows no limits, not even self-love. And he explains the consequences of following the Gospel to all those who are following him: leaving behind selfishness, renouncing self-love, abandoning the same old selfish habits and living like Jesus, that is, not living for ourselves, but for the Lord and other people. This is the meaning of his words: deny oneself and take up the cross. That is the path to true profit. Those who want to save their lives, that is, their habits and their selfish traditions, will lose them. Salvation does not consist in having many things, but in having a wide heart that is passionate for the Gospel.