|by Angela Lambert|
September 13th, 2015; 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 8:27-35 NAB
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.”
“I just want you to be happy.” What do we mean by this phrase? Usually, it means “I don’t want to see you suffer.” Peter cared deeply for Jesus. He believed in Jesus’ greatness and identified Him accurately as the long-awaited Christ promised by God. Peter would do anything to help the Christ in His mission and to achieve success. However, when Jesus told the disciples that the Son of Man would have to suffer, be humiliated and rejected, and be killed Peter did not feel he could get behind that. He demonstrated a natural human reaction as a friend. His “rebuke” to Jesus probably sounded similar to rebukes you or I have made to friends. Something like “don’t say things like that, everything’s going to be fine;” or “I won’t let that happen to you, it can’t be God’s will that you suffer;” or “there must be another way, I don’t want to see you hurt.” He could have also rebuked Jesus that for such a thing to happen would in fact be contrary to the Scriptural prophecy regarding the Son of Man. This title, which Jesus uses in reference to Himself 81 times in the four Gospels comes from the book of Daniel. In Daniel’s prophetic vision, after the appearance of four beasts – we read in chapter 7:13:
|“I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes, and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.”|
From a worldly point of view, Jesus’ teaching about the Son of Man seems contrary to Scripture’s and natural human sense. However, Jesus teaches that God’s truth goes above our understanding and can seem paradoxical. To save our lives, we may have to lose it. To find happiness, we may have to suffer pain. Power may appear as weakness.
Sometimes our seemingly encouraging words to our friends can be accurate but this Gospel challenges us to consider whether that is always the case. It’s possible that we sometimes avoid supporting or challenging our friend to carry a difficult cross by rationalizing that “we just want them to be happy.” Jesus uses strong words toward Peter when he thinks this way. He sees it as a temptation from Satan; something that could undermine Jesus’ courage. Happiness defined as the easy and less painful path is worldly happiness. Christian happiness, Jesus reveals, means denying oneself, carrying one’s cross, and following Him. This is a hard choice for one’s own life and sometimes even more difficult to support a friend or child through. I find it harder to watch my children have to carry crosses than carrying one myself. Yet, I know that to remove every suffering from their path would stunt their growth as persons, and possibly even worse, to undermine their ability to follow Christ.
True happiness does not come from never suffering. Jesus challenges us that when we are tempted to be weak and enable a friend’s sin or avoidance of a cross, we are not in fact wishing them true happiness. It’s the easy road for them and also for us. The road to the fullness of joy is tough and requires self-denial. True friends encourage one another to carry their crosses, cheering them on, helping them when possible, praying for grace, helping to keep their eyes on Christ and the supernatural life – happiness beyond our human imagination.
- If you were Peter, would you have rebuked Jesus too? What might you have said after hearing Jesus teach about His mission being one of suffering?
- What does the phrase “I just want you to be happy” really imply? What kind of happiness do you want for those you love? How can you help them find that happiness?
- Jesus teaches that if we want to save our lives we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. Ask Christ if there is something He is calling you to detach from. What cross does He want you to carry? Pray for the grace to see it, the courage to say yes, and the strength to carry it.
- In light of today’s Gospel, reflect on who is your truest friend. Who sees your Christian calling the clearest and encourages you the most – even when it’s difficult.
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- After reflecting on who is your truest friend, make time this week to reach out to him or her. Call, schedule a time to get together, or send a card. Do something to thank him or her and make time to nurture that friendship.
- Identify one thing you could “deny yourself” which would enable you to follow Christ more closely. Make a goal just for this week. It could be something as simple as denying yourself 15-30 minutes of sleep or tv to read the Bible or a spiritual book; putting limits on a work project to make time for your family or friends; going to adoration one evening instead of out with friends; fasting from foods or drinks that are damaging your health or draining your energy; giving someone a compliment when you feel like criticizing them…
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
|* These Sunday meditations are intended to engage the heart and imagination in prayer and include a practical application (resolutions) to your daily life. In our presentation on prayer I offer a more detailed discussion of ways to pray with Scripture that can take 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or half an hour and vary in depth depending on your time-frame and prayer goals.|