The story is told about an elderly woman who called 911 on her cell phone to report that her car had been broken into. She was hysterical as she explained her situation to the dispatcher: “They have stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the break pedal, and even the accelerator!” The dispatcher said: “Stay calm. An officer is on the way.”A few minutes later, the officer radios back: “Disregard. She is very forgetful. She got in the back seat by mistake.”
In today’s gospel (Mt. 16, 21-27) Jesus reminds us about another kind of forgetfulness, that of forgetting ourselves to follow Him. A person who is so full of himself/herself, a person who does not take up his/her cross cannot truly follow Christ. Self-emptying is a prerequisite for discipleship.
Jesus teaches us today to deny ourselves and follow Him, while the world around us teaches us to affirm and follow our own agenda and ambitions. What values and lessons are we leaving behind the younger generation with our words and life example? Are we teaching them the value of hard and honest work? Do they have a sense of mission and sacrifice? Are we teaching them the basic lesson that it pays to be good in this life?
One of the best shots in basketball is the fade-away shot, so too in life. We must learn to step back, take our time, and not push too hard all the time. The other thing we must learn in basketball is to assist, and to pass the ball so that others who are in a better situation can take the shot and help the team win.
If we are so full of ourselves, it is hard to make room for God in our lives. It is when we experience brokenness, deprivations, or trials of any kind that we are open to God’s grace, mercy, and love. Yes, a broken heart is an open heart.
All roads lead to death, the final and ultimate self-emptying. Instead of continuous acquisition, hoarding, and frenzied collecting, we must take the road of sharing and self-emptying because we take nothing with us when we leave this world.
Live full and die empty. More precisely, live fully for God, and die empty of yourself. This is the direction we should take in life. Not easy. A constant struggle. But not impossible with God’s grace.
Lord, remind me that without the cross, there is no victory. Amen.