Today is the Sunday after the exaltation of the Holy and Lifegiving Cross of our Lord and the passage that is read from the Gospel of Mark is about us and those who wish to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the evangelist, and after the miracle that Jesus performed and fed the multitude of people who followed Him, addressing His disciples while many others were present, He spoke about His passion and Resurrection and He explained to them what it means to follow Him.  

   As the evangelist characteristically emphasizes, He warns them that whoever wants to follow Him, must renounce himself, carry his cross and only then he will be able to become His companion (Mark 8: 34). Hence, we should deny ourselves, carry the cross and adopt a new lifestyle living by His word and teachings.

   Unfortunately, no one can be saved unless he abandons his passions and selfishness, especially if he does not commit to live his life for the sake of goodness and truth, and if he does not follow the Son of God, who is the real and only truth. That was the meaning of Jesus' words. The material goods of our world are vain, hollow and transient; today they may be found but tomorrow they may get lost. People come and go, live and die and this is the course of this ephemeral life, therefore, no one acquires anything if he gains the whole world and loses his eternal and immortal soul.

   In today's Gospel, the Lord explains the importance of self-denial, saying that whoever cares only for his welfare, ultimately fails to save his soul. On the contrary, whoever dedicates his life for Jesus Christ and for the Gospel will eventually save his soul. The Lord does not force anyone to become His disciple. He wants His Disciples to become willingly keepers of the Truth. That is why He uses the words: «whoever wants to follow Me» in the presence of the crowd. A good deed is indeed valuable when man's freewill is directed with absolute FREEDOM towards goodness, and not otherwise, when man is obliged to do the best he can.  

   We need to be more aware of our mission and at the same time lift our Cross together with knowledge, acceptance, living by the Holy Book and keeping in mind that the Church follows the same path, the same church that acknowledges the abdication of our own lives, so that we can gain it back together with our brothers. More awareness of our mission requires our resistance to the secular way of life, that wants everything to be accounted for without the Lord Jesus Christ. This awareness is ultimately the meaning of the presence of the Cross in the life of the Church and in our own life, and of course, that if we accept such interpretation.  

   In the second paragraph of today's sermon, we shed the light on two things that pave the way to our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Henceforth, we have to focus on two more expressions that Jesus specifically said: First, «I am ashamed», which basically means that anyone who is so ashamed of Jesus and His teaching is actually denying Him. Second, the «Son of man» who is Jesus Christ, will judge those who reject Him.  

   Because everything we have said about today's excerpt may seem difficult and impossible to do, I account myself responsible and declare that if the life in Christ was difficult for man, God who loves him so much would never have asked it of him. Again, whoever decides to live according to the will of God, in his struggle, in his effort, will not be alone. His constant companion and helper will be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who will support and guide him to complete his course and become a shareholder of the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen!

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