From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For he who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what will he give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.” ( Matthew 16: 21-27)
All of Sacred Scripture is relevant. All of Sacred Scripture offers us insight.
Today’s Gospel is a double feature. There is so very much here. There are two insights I wish to share. The first is the concept of personal failure and the second deals with personal burden.
Let’s talk about failure. The story of Peter tells us what failure is and what failure is not.
Failure is a reminder of our human weakness. Each one of us has our own particular flaws. We all have an array of self-inflicted wounds: a disastrous decision , words spoken in anger, a variety of flaws, lost opportunities and fractured dreams.
Our failures are a sign of our human weakness. But they are not the end of the line. Our God is a God of compassion, a God of forgiveness. God is always willing to give us a second chance.
Our failures show us our human weakness but they should never be the end of our story. We can move beyond our sins because of God’s unfailing compassion and forgiveness. Jesus knew this truth. God will do the same for us. Pick any failure you wish, name your greatest sin. As profound as they may be. God’s compassion is deeper. We, like Peter, must get up and try again, believing that the same God who forgave us, will be with us.
Now let’s talk about carrying the cross. Some suggest that what Jesus is saying is that in order to be a disciple, we have to go out and find pain or suffering to prove that we really believe. Or worse, some suggest that God sends us pain or suffering to test us, and to prove our discipleship.
What Jesus is saying is that, if we want to be a disciple, we must believe in Him on the level of the cross. Any cross, after all, is personal. A cross is not an abstract idea or a concept. Carrying a cross affects us in the deepest and most intimate part of our being. Jesus is saying that we will never know what it means to be a disciple unless we allow our faith to operate in our deepest selves. When Jesus says that we must take up our cross and follow him, he is not saying that we must go out and look for pain so that we can be disciples. He is saying that we will only realize what it means to be a disciple when our faith is personal enough to allow us to carry our pain.
Whatever pain you are carrying, know that God is aware of your struggle and will not abandon you. God will not to let you carry your cross alone.
This is what it means to be a disciple. It is more than knowing the Ten Commandments or going to Church or knowing theology. It is allowing your faith to operate on the level of your living, on the level of your pain, as you carry your cross. Only this is real faith.
Prayer of The Day
Lord, help me grow in my faith. Teach me to focus on your love and compassion. Teach me to believe that I am never alone as log as you are in my life.
The death of on the cross won, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the afflicted, and new life for those condemned to death. His death makes possible our freedom to live as the adopted sons and daughters of the merciful Father in heaven. His death enables all of us to know of His abiding love and His constant presence in our lives.