Who am I? Who are You?
One of the easiest to forget truths of the faith is the one about carrying our crosses. So many times, I want to hear about peace, prosperity, and joy. But when the going gets tough, it’s often much more likely I focus on my lack of pleasure, rather than the opportunity set before me to act out my Christian duty.
In the Gospel for today, Christ is asking a simple but deeply impactful question: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter immediately shows his understanding and declares that Jesus is “the Christ”. Jesus then goes on to tell them about the things the Son of Man must undergo: suffering, rejection, death. Jesus is sharing with them His purpose, his duty, the Will of the Father. Oftentimes, we run from suffering, from pain, from anguish, wanting a life that is easier, and at least in our eyes, more fulfilling. Peter stands in for us. He pulls Jesus aside and rebukes Him, not wanting Jesus to endure this suffering mainly because Peter had grown to love Jesus, but also because Jesus was the Messiah, the one to end the suffering of the Jewish people.
I wonder too, if Peter understood what Christ’s suffering meant for him. Did he think as we do now, that suffering is unbecoming of the Christ? Or was it that suffering is unbecoming of the Christian? After all, to be a follower of Christ, we have to act like Christ. The goal of the disciple back then, and this holds true today, was to become the master. So much so, that when others met you, they were essentially meeting the master. Was Peter shying away from suffering?
The Gospel for today ends with Christ admonishing His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” I don’t know about you, but to me, Jesus couldn’t have made it any clearer. The goal of the Christian life is to join our suffering to Christ’s.
But we run from this! And it’s at the very core of our identity as Christians. Without the Cross, we have no Redemption. To deny the Cross is to deny the Resurrection. What does that mean in my life? When I deny the cross Christ has placed before me, am I settling for comfort, where something greater is in store for me? Denial or fear of suffering serves as a direct rejection of our identity as Christians. And I think this is so tellingly demonstrated in the Gospel. The passage begins with Jesus asking about His identity and ends with Jesus teaching on your identity.
Our answer to suffering lies in two questions: Who am I? Who are You? If we ask ourselves these questions, we can begin to submit ourselves to God’s Will. We can begin to understand that we are like small children who don’t understand what is best for us, and that God is really a loving Father who desires our happiness more than we ourselves do. Will we let Him try today?
I’m not perfect. And I run from suffering, and opportunities to sacrifice all the time. I don’t trust that God has placed this before me as an opportunity to grow into who I am, and think more about the temporary joy, comfort, or pleasure I might take in ignoring the cross. If we want lasting joy, if we want lasting comfort, if we want lasting pleasure, we must never forget what came from such great suffering on a Cross. Life eternally. I’ll end with some great words of the Ven. Fulton Sheen, “Unless there is a Good Friday in your life, there can be no Easter Sunday.”
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