Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Mark (8: 34 – 9:1) in which Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine let them renounce themselves and take up their cross and follow me”.Fr Paul says each of the three great prophecies of the Passion (the death and Resurrection of Jesus) is followed by a misunderstanding by the disciples. This is followed by Jesus re-iterating that to be a disciple of his involves following him to glory by suffering. Several of the sayings of the Gospel occur elsewhere in the other Gospels so this Gospel may be composed of various sayings of Jesus, pronounced at different times and gathered together here. For the new converts at the time of the writing of the Gospels this may have involved bloody persecution, for it was a crime to refuse to acknowledge the Emperor as Lord, whereas a Christian would declare, ‘Never mind the Emperor, Christ is Lord’. The suffering they endured, the cross they carried more than likely involved isolation, cutting oneself off from family and friends. Going to the games or to the theatre would have been impossible because it involved a sacrifice to the gods, and there were little incense-altars found all over every Hellenistic city. Towards the end of the Gospel comes one of the few occasions where Jesus uses the title ‘Son of Man’ with clear reference to the prophecy of the glorious Son of Man in the Book of Daniel who receives all power and authority from the One of Great Age. Fr Paul notes today’s Gospel Lesson – do I pick up my cross, whatever it maybe, and follow Jesus or do I avoid it like the plague or maybe COVID?
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