1. Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mk8:27-35). Taken from today’s Sunday gospel.
2. Last Sunday, Jesus was presented as one who can change any situation thus our reflection was titled: God is able to change your situation. Today the same Jesus is telling us to take up our crosses and follow him. After the failed attempt to teach people about his body as food, Jesus concentrated on the Twelve who remained with him. He then questioned them on what people think about his identity. From the general responses it was clear to him that his identity was still hidden from the masses. He then asked them what they knew about his identity.
3. ‘You are the Messiah’, was the answer from Peter. It was the right answer but Jesus forbade them to tell people about it because the Messiah’ was supposed to be a political liberator, a role that Jesus was not ready to play. His own messiahship is one that suffers and dies in the hands of sinners out of obedience for God, his Father.
4. To bring the point home Jesus announced that he was to suffer and die but will rise after three days. Peter immediately reacted to that information. He took him aside and rebuked him. Peter’s reaction was normal. How can the messiah accept to be humiliated and killed by men. It does not agree with the right fate of the messiah. But Jesus rebuked him harshly, calling Satan, an enemy of God.
5. Jesus then turned to the crowd and openly told them that nobody can run away from suffering and still pretend to be his disciples. His true followers must be ready to suffer even to the point of losing their life. They must take up their cross daily and follow him. This is certainly a hard saying. Ordinarily, the modern day christian presumed that being close to God should shield one from any misfortune. Here is Jesus telling us that we must daily encounter crosses and must still follow him with the crosses. Why should he say this? His answer is that we need to lose our life in order to get it back “for whoever wishes to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel will get it back.”
6. As you well know, Jesus suffered and died but God did not abandon him. He raised him from death and made the cross to become no longer an instrument of shame but a sign of victory. Following Jesus’ teaching does not imply going about looking for suffering. It rather implies having a firm conviction that God will never abandon you in your difficulties. He will accompany you through the worst and will reward every suffering accepted because of your christian faith. The words of Jesus in Jn16:33 should be ringing in your ears whenever you have the temptation to run away from a necessary suffering. He said: ‘you will have troubles in the world but be of a good cheers for I have conquered the world.’ It is as if he is saying: ‘as I have won so too shall you win.’ Like Job, you must accept both good and bad times from God but you must not forget that no necessary suffering will go without reward, if not today, then tomorrow; if not in time then in eternity. @Vita, 12/09/21.