When Jesus asks, in today’s Gospel, “Who do people say that I am?” no one guesses correctly – they suggest Elijah .. John the Baptist .. one of the prophets. When Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples, he identifies Jesus as the Christ, the long- awaited Messiah. On hearing Peter’s answer, Jesus swears the disciples to silence and secrecy. Why? Perhaps because the people visualised the Messiah as a spectacular figure who would accomplish victory over their enemies. This was a world away from the real role of the Messiah. The cross will uncover the truth of Who He really is. But Peter either doesn’t fully understand, or just can’t accept that.
Jesus tells them that He must suffer, be rejected and be put to death. Not only must He suffer, but experience comfortless suffering through being rejected. He has to face being forsaken, abandoned. That idea future suffering is what Peter wanted to blank out.
Jesus calls the crowd and the disciples to Him and says, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine…” Jesus compels no one, not even His disciples
to follow Him on the road of suffering. If they do, if we do, then the first essential is self-denial. The cross of Jesus was for Jesus alone.
No one is expected to to carry His burden. But He does invite us to take up our own crosses, the weight of suffering which comes our way when we follow in His footsteps. In the second reading we see this clearly in the letter of St. James: we must put our faith to work. Our faith is tested in the real world, and reality often comes to us in the shape of a cross. In taking it up, in accepting the burden and shouldering that cross, we live up to our true name as Christians – “followers of Christ”, “Christ-like,” “other Christs!” “Go in My name, and because you believe .. others will know that I live.”
Carrying the cross
When we’re faced with troubles we often call them the crosses we have to bear. These crosses can be family problems, financial physical, spiritual or mental problems, etc. but in today’s readings we’re asked to carry our problems … to pray for help … to accept the help of others … or perhaps to give help to others (whether at home or far away). We’re asked always to trust and have hope in Jesus.
It’s good to reflect on what’s really important in our lives. What do we really value … what’s really precious – our material possessions – our T.V. – tablet – X Box – our car – our home?
So how do we value our faith? Take it for granted and forget we can’t put a price on it? If we can hold on to our faith, even in the middle of difficult trials, it will become a “cause of great joy to us” (1Peter 1:6)