The Lord said, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And He said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power.” St. Mark 8:34-9:1 Gospel for The Sunday after the Elevation of the Cross
Jesus asks a tough question. “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Living in society today, this question is a profound one. Doesn’t God want us to gain the whole world? Doesn’t God want us to get bumped from coach to business class or even first class? Doesn’t God want to give us a dream home and a new car every year? If we struggle financially do we think that it is because we lack faith? Doesn’t God want us to have great success?
Basically, from our experience in the world in which we live, the definition of success today is to do exactly what Christ questions – gain the whole world at any cost. The world is your oyster – devour it! Compromising self worth and self-value for worldly gain has seemingly become so common place it is considered the norm. Maybe God somehow had it all wrong – true physical beauty can only be defined with the aid of a scalpel and deep pocketbook.
It’s hard living in a world that preaches selfishness, self-gain, looking out for number one, acceptance and justification for inexcusable actions. Of course, this is made even more complicated in a world where some churches and preachers preach that God wants you to be rich.
It’s also hard not to fall victim to this adverse philosophical approach to life, when it seems everybody else accepts it without question. There was a letter written around 100 AD called the 2nd Letter of Clement. Written at the time immediately following the disciples and the earliest beginning of the Church this letter also addressed this very same idea.
Clement wrote, “This world talks of adultery and corruption and love of money and deceit, but that world (the Kingdom of God) says farewell to these things. We cannot then, be friends equally of both but we must say farewell to this to poses the other.” St. Ignatius the Godbearer, said, “We still lack many things that we may not lack God.”
With all the subtle half-truths given to us on a daily basis, how do we discern the truth about the real focus in our lives?
The good news is that Jesus clears up the confusion. Christ tells us to deny ourselves, carry our cross, to lose our very life for His sake, and for the sake of our salvation and the kingdom of Heaven. We are told to not compromise our belief, risking our soul for the sake of temporal gains, and to not be ashamed of His teachings. What does this mean? It means we strive for perfection, not according to the standards of the world, but the standards given to us by Christ himself. Remember the wealthy young ruler who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life? Christ told him that if he truly wanted to be perfect, he must sell all he had and give it to the poor. Only then, would he inherit eternal life and enjoy the perfection and treasures offered in heaven.
- “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
- “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
- “Sell what you have and give alms; provide for yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.”
As St. Caesarius of Arles said, “While there is much in the world to love, it is best loved in relation to the One who made it. The world is beautiful, but much fairer is the One who fashioned it. The world is glorious, but more delightful is the One by whom the world was established. Therefore let us labor as much as we can, beloved, that love of this world as such may not overwhelm us, and that we may not love the creature more than the creator. God has given us earthly possessions in order that we might love him with our whole heart and soul.”
 Mark 8:36-37
 2nd letter of Clement
 Matt 6:19-21
 Mark 10:24-26
 Luke 12:33