So why the secret? If Jesus was the Messiah as Peter proclaimed in today’s gospel from Mark, why be quiet about it? If Jesus healed people like He did, why keep it a secret? The reason is simple: you cannot understand Jesus’ Work or His Messianic mission, unless you understand and embrace the cross.
That’s where Peter went so wrong. It might seem reasonable at first. Jesus, Peter’s friend, said that he was going to Jerusalem where he would be killed. Peter, as a good friend had said, “Then don’t go. Don’t do this.” Peter did not yet understand the cross. He did not yet understand the depth of the sacrificial love of the Savior of the World. He was thinking in the way of the world.
The way of the world would demand that Jesus limit his sacrifice. It is the way that we have to fight against throughout our lives. Look around our society. Look at the people who only care for themselves, even leaving their children for their own perceived happiness. Sadly the way of selfishness is the way of the world.
It is normal for us to initially object to being called out of ourselves however we have to fight the temptation to take care of ourselves first, we have to take steps to deny ourselves for the sake of the Kingdom of God. That’s what Jesus is speaking of when he says, whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.
In the third Eucharistic Prayer, there is an amazing sentence that knocks me for a loop. It is just a simple prayer to the Father about Jesus. That prayer is: May He make us an everlasting gift to you. That is the reason why the Word became flesh, to prepare us as a gift to the Father. But how? How does He make us a gift? He does this by forming us to be like Him. This deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me, is not poetic phrase. This is the demand placed on us to be like Jesus, to love like Jesus loved. Throughout our lives, we have to take steps to be more and more Christ-like.
But we are not masochists. We don’t deny ourselves because we take some sort of perverse pleasure in pain. Nor do we see evil in the goods of God’s creation. Our natural drive to find happiness in creation is perfectly normal. All of God’s creation is good. But we have to look carefully to see the degree of happiness something gives. We have to look carefully to find lasting happiness. Where is it? Is it in our stuff? Stuff is good, but stuff breaks, or gets repossessed, or gets outdated, or boring. Is it in the human relations? It is a beautiful thing for people to be attracted to each other, but relationships demand more than attraction, they demand commitment long after the external beauty of the other has faded. No, we need more than this to achieve happiness. We need God. And we can only have God if we allow Jesus to make us an everlasting gift to the Father.
The sacrificial love of Christians, the accepting of the cross is not for ourselves. It is for others.
Like Jesus we are called to deny ourselves and take up the cross for the sake of others. That means that our actions have divine significance for others, significance that we might not even realize. For example, we don’t wreck ourselves up by taking drugs or getting drunk. Why? Not just out of self-respect, although that is important, but because there are others now and down the road that need all our brain cells to be able to function. Young people give up sex outside of marriage not because this is a Church no-no, but so they can give themselves totally to that person they commit to for life. The married remain faithful as one of many ways of declaring their love for their spouse.
Christianity is not about little ole self centered me in love with myself. Nor is Christianity about you. Christianity is all about Jesus Christ. To follow Him means that we are called to be like Him.
Following Jesus is still a secret. People love calling themselves Christians, but refuse to Christian attitude of life. But following Jesus is not a secret from those who love like He loved, denying themselves for the sake of others, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
So, let us pray today for the courage to be Christian ■
 Sunday 13th September, 2009, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Isaiah 50:5-9. I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living—Ps 114(116):1-6, 8-9. James 2:14-18. Mark 8:27-35 [St John Chrysostom].