From the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord;’ he said ‘this must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?
‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’
After reading the Gospel, is there anything in particular that stands out for you? Consider the following questions.
I think about my life:
- What is God asking me to listen to?
- What does God want me to pay attention to?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding me to in this reading?
I think about my community and the world:
- What is God asking of us at this time?
- What is God wanting us to attend to in our community and our world?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding us towards?
In the context of this Gospel, it is helpful to recall what happens just beforehand. The euphoria the disciples must have been feeling as they came to the realisation of who Jesus was, is followed by this Gospel where Jesus begins to make it clear that he is going to suffer in Jerusalem. It isn’t surprising then, considering how Jesus has just names him as the rock upon which he will build his church, that Peter would question what Jesus is saying here about what is going to happen. The angry response that Jesus returns then would have likely shocked Peter. Jesus calls him abruptly out of his comfort zone and into the real world where suffering must be faced.
When Jesus rebukes him, he is effectively saying to Peter – “you are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way, but that of a human being.” Peter is seen as an obstacle, which is ironic given what Jesus has just said about him in the preceding story.
How often in our own lives have we found ourselves to be a stumbling block for others?
Later on in the Gospel there is a further call for us to walk the same road with Jesus – “if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus is asking each of us to dedicate our lives totally to serving and loving others, even if it means at times experiencing misunderstanding, ridicule, pain and even death itself.
This challenges us to be seeking to see life as Jesus sees it. It may be that when we walk the way of Jesus there might be people who criticise us, think we are stupid and even attack us. Yet those who have chosen the way of Jesus will again and again confirm that their lives are full of freedom, joy and peace.
If we are to be followers of Jesus, we need to let him lead, accepting that he will not lead us away from suffering, pain or difficulty. Therefore, instead of seeking our own benefit and gain, we can choose to allow every experience – even in moments of distress – to draw us closer into relationship with Jesus who invites us to lay our burdens on his shoulders.