18th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory
Jesus has just finished telling his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem where he will suffer and die at the hands of his enemies. Peter, no doubt rocked to his core at this revelation, takes the Lord aside and rebukes him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." Being a deeply pastoral sort, Jesus turns to Peter and offers to listen to his concerns; gently leads the newly minted facilitator of the disciples through all of the available options, and helps him to express his concerns in a non-confrontational, non-threatening way. Once consoled, Peter smiles and Jesus continues, saying, “Whoever wishes to come after me is invited to explore a wide variety of possible means for doing so and choose the path that best suits his/her felt needs.” All the disciples smile and wander off in different directions in search of how best to actualize his/her individual human potential. We are happy to learn that no one suffered, no one died, and everyone eventually fulfilled all of his/her felt needs. Now, what does Jesus actually say in response to Peter's rebuke? “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. . . Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. . .” If you've never thought of Jesus as a major buzz-kill, now's the time to start!
We don't want to say that Peter is urging his Master to abandon his mission and create some sort of humanistic, therapy-ish program for achieving inner-peace and enlightenment. But we have to wonder what exactly Peter is thinking when he objects to God's plan for His Christ. Peter knows the Hebrew prophecies concerning the fate of the promised Messiah. He's witnessed the religious and political opposition to his Master's teachings. He's heard the dropped hints and subtle clues that indicate a less than glorious end for Jesus' public ministry. So, what exactly is his problem? Maybe it's just hearing it all said out loud. Maybe it's hearing Jesus himself reveal the ugly details. Or, maybe it's a combination of being handed the keys to the kingdom AND THEN told that his Master is to suffer and die at the hands of their enemies. The combination of authority, responsibility, and the lack of Messianic supervision is enough to rattle anyone! No doubt—Peter doesn't want his teacher to suffer and die, nor does he want the burdens of leading a Messianic movement w/o a Messiah. But it could be the caase that Peter is most afraid for his own skin. He knows that Christ's suffering and death means that his own suffering and death is not far behind. When he rebukes Jesus, what he's really saying is: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to ME!"
Let's ask a difficult question: how much of our daily lives as followers of Christ is spent avoiding the suffering Christ himself suffered? How often do we put down our cross and let it rest against convenient props—props like social justice politics, theological speculation, well-worn and comfortable devotions, intellectual gaming, therapeutic processes, or an old favorite: “just doing a job”? Following after Christ—that is, following him to the Cross in Jerusalem, following him to suffer and love for others—isn't a theory, a therapy, a game, a devotion, a process, or a job. Nor is it a lifestyle or a career. It's a commission, a ministry, a vocation; one that each of us has accepted freely, willingly, perhaps even eagerly. And even though each of us individually has set our feet on this path, we do not travel the path alone. Christ died so that he might be among us always. . .with each of us and with all of us together. With all the authority and responsibility of leading others behind our Christ, there is nothing we should fear and so we can say, “God forbid, Lord! That we should set down our cross.”___________________
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