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Scripture reflection: Take up your cross and follow me

 |  28 August 2017

Lectionary Readings

First reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9.

Psalm: Psalm 62(63):2-6, 8-9.

Second reading: Romans 12:1-2.

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27.

Link to readings.

Introduction

This week’s readings make it clear that discipleship isn’t easy. But they also reassure us that the cost of following Jesus is always a cost worth paying. Even when taking up our cross brings real suffering, God is there, offering us something far greater – the promise of life in all its fullness.

Jeremiah feels so overpowered by God and so worn down by the demands of prophesying (First Reading) that he tries to turn away. But God’s message is like a fire burning deep within him, impossible to deny. The psalmist also speaks of a profound inward longing that can only be satisfied by God, whose love for us is greater than life itself. St Paul, too, knows well how costly discipleship can be (Second Reading), but he urges us to a 'new mind', modelling ourselves not on the world, but on Jesus himself. When we offer ourselves to God we discover his desire for us and can open ourselves to being transformed by him.

Today’s Gospel moves on from previous weeks by speaking of Jerusalem and the cross. Jesus warns the disciples that he must suffer, and Peter is rebuked when he tries to dissuade him.

Following Jesus now means letting go of our own self-centered lives, but in doing so we become open to a new and much fuller life of love and freedom, lived in the Lord.

I might pray this week to be ever more open to Jesus’s call to me to help him carry the cross, and I ask him to help me respond to that call with joy and generosity.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 62

As I come before the Lord today I allow myself to slow down and relax, secure in the knowledge that he longs to welcome me exactly as I am. In time I read the psalm slowly, prayerfully. I wait in the Lord’s presence. What seems to draw me? I notice anything stirring within me. Perhaps I share the psalmist’s joy... or perhaps I feel dry and weary.

However I come, I can trust that the Lord understands and hears me. The psalmist’s longing for God is intensely heartfelt and personal.

I may like to ponder this.

Can I allow myself to get in touch with the deepest desires of my own heart, however hard they may be to express? I entrust these longings – and my whole self – to God, confident that his longing for me, his beloved child, far outweighs anything that I can imagine.

I may feel drawn to reflect on the back-page image. Are there times when I need to cling on to the Lord for safety and feel the touch of his hand? I ask for any grace I need – for myself or for anyone else.

When I am ready, I take my leave, speaking out my gratitude to God, and asking him to stay close by today.

Gospel

Matthew 16:21-27

I come to stillness in the way that suits me best, trusting that I am in the presence of my loving God.

When I am ready I turn prayerfully to the text. I may find it helpful to imagine myself present in the scene. What do I hear and see?

How do I feel as I listen to Jesus’s challenge to the disciple... and tome? I notice anything that resonates with me.

Perhaps I think of a time when I have been a stumbling block to someone else, or when I have put my own needs first. If so, I ask for the Lord’s forgiveness, confident of his merciful gaze upon me.

Or perhaps I ponder the shape of the cross in my own life, or in the lives of those around me. I speak to the Lord of this, as I would to a trusted friend. If there is a grace I need, I ask for it confidently.

Jesus promises a fuller, deeper, life to all who have the courage to follow him.What is the life that I most desire... for myself... my family... my church... this world? I share my hopes and dreams with the Lord... and allow him space to speak to me.

In time I end my prayer with a slow sign of the cross, grateful for the gift of God’s unfailing love for me. Glory be...

 

Reflections based on Prego by St Beuno’s Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham

 

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