Suffering the loss of his own soul

Published on 28 Aug 2020

Jesus gives us life.  I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full [1]. 

The fullness of life, the chief gift of Christ, is conferred on those who believe in him and put their faith into practice.  Membership of the Body of Christ enables the best kind of life.   The Lord, who has risen from the dead and ascended, shares with his friends the divine way of being.  This gift transforms their present existence and equips them for eternity. He will reward each one according to his behaviour [2]. The Father welcomes into his eternal presence those on whom his Son has conferred new life through the Holy Spirit.  They have demonstrated their acceptance of the gift by goodness of thought, word and action.

Accepting the life which Jesus gives involves renouncing other ways of living.  Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it [3].  Receiving the Lord’s gift entails change.  He provokes repentance, amendment and renewal.  Not everything about the old life was bad. However our Saviour transforms us and teaches us his new way. Let your behaviour change modelled by your new mind [4].  We leave the former way of doing things behind and walk with the Lord. We renounce sin, and, now, contemplate death with the conviction that, if God is merciful, it will be a transition to something better.  The new life accepted includes continuing sacrifice and renunciation on the model of Jesus Christ, who was destined to suffer grievously [5].  As his disciples, we also carry a cross and make our way to Calvary. If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me [6].

There is great strength in the new life of Christ. It is the most reliable of ways of living.  Discipleship of the redeemer is very securely founded.  Sharing the life of the risen Lord carries us through difficulties and challenges.  He gives us vigour.  He makes us persevering.  Even in illness, his living presence sustains us.   Gratitude wells up even though there is much that troubles us.  Jesus, living within, enables us to live virtuously and apostolically. He enables us to keep going even when the temptation to give up is strong.  His goal is to bring us to his Father. The energy of the mission of the Son overflows.  Help is offered to us in all our difficulties.  We are recipients of a new dynamism which genuinely carries us forward.

Life can be lost.  Death awaits us all.  Even the toughest sometimes topple over.  The new life, which is a divine gift, for all its strength, can also be lost.  The divine spark requires acceptance and care. Not all welcome what Christ offers.  Some of those who have received his gift cease to make use of it.  He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan, you are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s [7].  Grace can be lost, recovered and lost again.  To live as a disciple of Jesus is no whim or fancy.  It is a permanent commitment which alters everything as it is lived out every day.   This possession for eternity [8] can be squandered or neglected.  The new life given to us is meant to carry us through into the presence of God forever.  At our best, we respond gratefully.  On the divine gift we come to depend, knowing what is happening to us and being glad.  You have overpowered me: you were the stronger [9]. We are happy to acknowledge that what Christ gives to us and asks of us are at the core of who we are.   We know how he has changed us and are glad of a better life. My soul clings to you [10]. Nevertheless we can reject what he offers.  I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more [11]. We can renounce what we have previously accepted.

Wrongdoing stifles the new life we have received. Sin kills the soul..  For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? [12]   We can lose the divine life which the Lord has given us, while seeming to do well.  To gain the whole world is perhaps not how we would describe our highest ambition.  Temptations vary in subtlety.  Yet we can see that what absorbs too much our hopes and energies and is not God could take us away from him and what he wants for us.  So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.  No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it [13].   Our task is to discover the will of God, and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do [14].

The God who saves us by his self-sacrifice and who teaches us that blessed are the poor in spirit [15] gives as his first and greatest commandment: love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind [16].  Our devotion to him takes precedence over all rival centres of interest.  This is rational. He is God.  He is sharing his life with us.  My soul shall be filled as with a banquet [17].  How could it be other than utterly self-destructive to worship other gods or seek to gain the whole world?  The world belongs to its maker, though he is humble and teaches humility.   We are idolaters if we put someone or something else in his place.   He commands our attention. There seemed to be a fire burning in my heart [18]. We discover that if we give God attention he draws out of us love. You have seduced me Lord and I have let myself be seduced [19].  This love is sacrificial and humble. Gradually our life is being ordered around our love for the One who made us, who redeems us and who makes us holy.

The Lord confers on us the energy we need to lead the new life to which he has called us.  He invites us to be co-operators in his purposes. There are commandments and also grace and guidance. Imitating Christ in his mission and work, we learn to share his goals and priorities. We put God first.  We are filled with his new way of living.  While guarding against losing the wonderful life which has been given to us, we live it to the full.  Not fearful or over-cautious, we put our complete trust in the one who has transformed us.  The Son walked steadily towards his destiny, well aware of what would happen to him.  We are not so wise, but Jesus invites us to march with him, without anxiety about what lies ahead.  May he nurture in us what is good and, by his watchful care, keep safe what he has nurtured [20].

Homily by Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              John 10.10

[2]              Matthew 16.27

[3]              Matthew 16.25

[4]              Romans 12.2

[5]              Matthew 16.21

[6]              Matthew 16.24

[7]              Matthew 16.23

[8]              Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War  1.1.22

[9]              Jeremiah 20.7

[10]            Psalm (63) 62.8

[11]            Jeremiah 20.9

[12]            Matthew 16.26 (Douay-Rheims translation)

What, then, will a man gain, if he wins he whole world and loses his life. (Jerusalem Bible)

[13]            1 Corinthians 10.12-13 NRSV

[14]            Romans 12.2

[15]            Matthew 5.3

[16]            Matthew 22.37  and see Exodus 20.2 and Deuteronomy 5.6

[17]            Psalm (63) 62.5

[18]            Jeremiah 20.9

[19]            Jeremiah 20.7

[20]            Roman Missal, Collect for the Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time