22ND TIME ORDINARY TIME A
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Last Sunday Peter was called by Jesus as “the rock” and was given the keys in the Kingdom of heaven. This Sunday, Jesus called the same Peter “Satan”, a stumbling block.
Peter might have professed that Jesus was the Christ but he never understood the meaning of his confession. When Jesus explained that his messiahship involves pain and suffering which will lead to his death, Peter rebuked him. He could not believe that his Christ will suffer such horrible death on the cross. Jesus “Get behind me, Satan.” Remember that before Jesus embarked on his public ministry, the devil tempted him with what we may call as “three shortcuts to glory.” Jesus called devil “Satan” precisely because he tempted Jesus to achieve glory without the cross. When his public ministry was about to end, Jesus started to prepare his disciples of his impending death and Peter tempted him just like the devil did not to go to the cross. The name “Satan” comes the Greek word ‘satanas” which means a tempter.
In our present time, the cross is an icon for many things used in churches, houses, jewelry, etc but during the time of Jesus it was worst humiliating punishment for criminals. For us, it is the symbol of our salvation. It is also used to denote our internal suffering hence not made of wood, silver nor gold but something that pierces the very depth of our being. It is something we are all afraid of. Staurophobia is the fear of the cross.
Normally our body takes what is pleasurable and shuns away from what is painful. We take care of our body and gives it the best shot: good and healthy food, clean and decent clothes, and comfortable shelter. When we feel physical pain, we usually take pills to relieve us. When we are sick, we consult our doctors, take our medicines and we rest. So why is there a need to suffer? Why the cross? Are we not created to live and enjoy the most of life?
Pain is inevitable to life. Our mothers have experienced the most unimaginable physical pain when they gave birth to us. Why could they not give birth without experiencing pain? Because pain is the antecedent to the birthing of life. In fact pain is a sign of growth. Since we needed a spiritual rebirth, God like a mother would experience the worst pangs of birth ever through the sufferings of Jesus. That is the imperative of the cross. As disciples of Jesus, we are all following a naked and suffering Christ. Is God being a masochist who is happy to see us suffering? Of course not!
We are like a piece of marble enduring every blow of the chisel in in the hands of the Master sculptor. He chisels away what is not necessary until the masterpiece in us comes into life. Each blow entails pain but it is needed to bring out the best in us. We are reborn in every moment of our life until we come to the full stature that God has envisioned for us.
Our pain is passing, even if it seems eternity for some. It is not the end of everything but a channel to something greater than all our sufferings. Our mothers can tell us the unexplainable joy after the pain of giving birth.
What is your cross at the moment? A lady once told me “Father, my husband is my cross.” She did not know that she was also the cross of her husband, so I just advised her “Love you your husband because he is your glorious cross.” Each one of us has our crosses to bear, for some longer, heavier, for some lighter, others have thorns.
We may not appreciate our crosses now, the way Peter did, but they are our way leading us to the fullness of our being. Maybe we cannot understand how.
Like a mother, God is also in pain with us because He is the one giving birth to us continuously until we are born to eternal life.