Christ the King Catholic Church
What a difference a week makes! Last week we saw Peter at his best. There at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked the question, "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter announced for all the world to hear, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!" And Jesus praised Peter for his answer telling him that flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, but this knowledge was a gift from the Father. And then Jesus gave him a new name and told him that he would be the rock on which Jesus would build his Church. And he entrusted the keys of the Kingdom to Peter with the power to bind and loose.
It was an amazing moment. But then, just moments later, Jesus begins to explain the kind of Messiah that he would be. Certainly not the glorious Messiah for which the people of his day were dreaming who would drive the Romans out of Palestine and establish Jerusalem as the center the universe. Not the triumphant Messiah for which the Apostles were longing at whose side in the Kingdom they were jostling for the best place.
Instead, immediately after Peter's profession of faith, Jesus begins to teach the Apostles that he would be a fessiah who would suffer and die before he would enter his glory. Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for what is to come. He prepares them for the scandal of the cross.
The word 'scandal' comes from a Latin word that means 'stumbling block.' Something that stands in the way of faith. Something that is an obstacle to faith. Something that causes us to lose faith. As Jesus explains the suffering that he will endure before he enters into his glory, Peter finds this to be a stumbling block, an obstacle to the faith in Jesus that just moments before he had boldly professed.
Peter says 'No' to a suffering Messiah.
And Jesus' words to Peter are strong and stinging: "Get behind me, Satan!" In just moments the situation changes dramatically. When Peter made his profession of faith, Jesus told him that only the Father cold have revealed this to him and, now, Jesus compares him to Satan. Ouch!
The Good News of Jesus Christ that is at the heart of the Gospel is that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to redeem the world. The Gospel is like a
coin with two sides: the cross and the crown. The only way to the crown, the only way to the glory, is through the cross. There are no shortcuts. And so, Jesus tells the Apostles and us that if we wish to follow him, we must be ready to pick up our cross. No cross/no glory.
This is not what Peter and the Apostles wanted to hear. It's not what I want to hear. I am scandalized by the cross in my life. I want the glory without the cross. And Satan, the Father of Lies, continues to advance the big lie that there are shortcuts.
When Jesus was preparing to begin his saving mission, he went into the desert and the devil met him there and tempted him to abandon God's plan for him. The devil told Jesus that there was a way to glory without the cross. There was a way for him to redeem the world that would not cost him anything. The devil tempted Jesus to believe that there was a shortcut.
Peter now echoes that same message. He tries to convince Jesus that the redemption of humankind, the great reconciliation of God and his creation could come about without great cost, without great sacrifice, without great love.
I'm not pointing any fingers at Peter. I know that I fall into the temptation to look for shortcuts all the time. I am tempted to sidestep the hard work of discipleship in which I trade the Gospel of Christ for a sugar-coated Gospel that offers the false promise of all glory and no cross.
I buy into the lie. I try to find shortcuts every time I try to explain away the hard sayings of Jesus in the Gospel. At the heart of the Gospel is reconciliation. Jesus tells us that we must forgive one another from the heart as God has forgiven us.
The mercy we show to others is the mercy that will be shown to us. I don't know about you, but I am an expert at rationalizing. I know that Jesus calls me to forgive not seven times, but seventy-seven times. But then I look for the shortcut, I rationalize. Certainly, I'm not expected to forgive this brother or this sister.
Certainly not in this situation. Certainly not in these circumstances. And I sidestep the cross.
Christianity is not an easy way of life. Christianity is not for wimps. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus, to live as he lived, to seek to do the right thing no matter what the cost, is not easy- ever. Jesus never promised that it would be.
The message of the cross is that there can be no real love without sacrifice. That is what Jesus is teaching the Apostles and all of us in the Gospel today. We should not be scandalized when our faith costs, when our following in the footsteps of Jesus, means suffering. Rather we should be scandalized when our faith does not cost us, does not bring with it a cost because those are the times when we have followed a sugar-coated Gospel rather than the Gospel of Jesus.
The Father sent Jesus into the world to reveal the height and depth and breadth of God's love for us. And in God's plan, the cross was the necessary way in which this love would be revealed. The cross was the necessary way because it would be the only way that would leave no doubt about the height and depth and breadth of God's love for us. "For God so loved the world that he sent his own beloved Son to die for us and to die on a cross." Jesus came into the world to reveal this love and nowhere is it clearer than on the cross.
Both Satan and Peter tempted Jesus to turn away from that plan. Both Satan and Peter tempted Jesus to look for another way, an easier way. The temptation must have been tempting as all temptations are. But Jesus knew there could be no shortcuts to Calvary. Jesus knew that the way to the glory that the Father had reserved for him passed through the cross. There can be no real love without sacrifice. Sending Jesus into the world, the Father showed this love. Offering his life on the cross for us, Jesus showed this love.
And Jesus told us that by this love for one another we will be his disciples. By our loving as Jesus loves, with a self-giving love rather than a self-seeking love, the world would know that we belong to him. Love without sacrifice is not love. If we are to share in his glory, we must be ready to share in his cross, to love as he has loved.
The irony is that the devil would like us to believe that we should be scandalized when our discipleship costs us, when it hurts. Jesus tells us the opposite, the exact opposite. We should be scandalized when our discipleship does not cost us, for he tells Peter and all of us today, "Whoever wishes to come after me, must be willing to deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."