Living in Oakmont, the site of the 2016 US Open Golf Championship, has been interesting these past few months. Now that the tournament has actually arrived it is hard to not get caught up in all the excitement. I had the opportunity to get on the course and watch the practice rounds this week.
As a casual golfer I especially enjoy watching the pros navigate what is known as one of the most challenging golf courses in the world. They make it look so easy. I find myself thinking, what a way to make a living! At the same time I realize that a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice go into being a professional golfer. In this week's Gospel we see a parallel:
Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He scolded them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:18-24
Jesus acknowledges the excitement surrounding His presence by questioning the disciples. Jesus has allowed them to become intimate with Him. He predicts His death and resurrection directly to the disciples as He continues to prepare them to truly follow Him. This Jesus does with the disciples prior to pronouncing to the crowd, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
I recently read a quote by Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, that said "It is much easier to die than to lay down your life day in and day out with the sense of the high calling of God." Chambers goes on to say that, "Salvation is easy for us, because it cost God so much. But the exhibiting of salvation in my life is difficult." Being a follower of Jesus requires sacrifice and hard work, every day! Jesus has promised us that following Him is going to be hard. In fact, as Peter and the disciples learned, it will be much tougher than we think.
The beauty of being a "professional" follower of Jesus is that the "championship" we win in the end is far greater than any we might experience in this world, and it lasts forever!