This is a reflection in the parish bulletin for the upcoming Sunday readings for
September 16, 2018:
Jesus’ summons about saving our lives used to be my least favorite passage. It confused me because I thought loving life was good and important. Why did Jesus encourage a desire to lose my life? I have always been an advocate to save life. As I have studied this further, I am beginning to understand Christ’s teaching on identity through these words.
Earlier in Mark 8, Jesus fed thousands of hungry people and then healed a blind man. Both of these miracles made the ordinary (bread and saliva) extraordinary (satisfaction and sight). Jesus ate, spoke, spit, walked, and talked just like any of us who share in his humanity. These miracles required faith in God’s humanity and divinity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sites St. Athanasius, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." (CCC 460).
In verse 22, the people begged Jesus to touch the blind man. God connects with humanity through Jesus’ sensory experience and helps us to come to know Him more intimately. Jesus tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). In the recent downpours in our city, branches have broken and fallen from trees. They could have survived the storm if they were still connected to the tree, but they neither have life nor can produce fruit on the ground.
Our identity is found in God. We are made by Him, for Him, and in Him. Jesus prunes, but Satan cuts off. When our identity wavers from God, we need to tell Satan to get away. When St. Peter was asked who Jesus is to Him, He proclaimed, “You are the Christ!” Christ’s identity speaks to our identity and helps draw meaning into the puzzling passage about losing life to gain it.
When we lose our lives for God, we relinquish any control we think we have and let God win. God laid down His life for us so that we could be with Him forever. It’s not about ending our life, but rather understanding the purpose of humanity through joy and suffering. Satan tells us to always seek pleasure, while Jesus wants us to seek God in everything. Knowing God helps us know ourselves. If God is the potter, we are formed as the clay. If God is the Father, we are claimed as His children. If God is Lover, we are Beloved. Imagine Jesus looking into your eyes and asking, “Who do YOU say that I am?”