This morning we listen as Jesus murmurs this hauntingly beautiful question to Peter and to each of us, “Who do you say that I am? Who am I for you?” Whatever we answer, however we have come to experience and love him, Jesus reminds us - the cross must be part of our relationship with him. We dare not shy away from it. And we can well imagine the apostles’ confusion as Jesus teaches them that he must suffer greatly and be rejected, killed and rise after three days. No doubt enjoying Jesus’ recent celebrity, they don’t want to hear about it. And Peter will go so far as to reprimand Jesus.
Jesus will have none of that. And he states emphatically, to Peter, to each of us in our reluctance, “Get behind me.” In other words: “Just follow me. Come after me.” To follow, is to carry the cross as Jesus our Master does. And always it is our own cross, probably unexpected, invariably not one of our own choosing but our own. We all have one; we do not go shopping for it in the cross store. It comes, and we are invited to bear it with Christ Jesus our Lord; he in us, burdened with us, encouraging us, sustaining us, leading us forward in hope, teaching us confidence in the Father’s love and resurrection as our promised inheritance. For the cross is always, absolutely joined to the resurrection. They are inseparable, one event. Jesus asks us to take up our cross because it is the very narrow gate to love and risen life in him.
The cross is inevitable for Jesus, for it is the way he can love without limit. That is why he is so adamant with Peter – to deny him the cross would be to keep him from the fulfillment of his total self-gift, to be held back from it is unthinkable. The cross is the “marriage bed” granting him total, unremitting self-surrender to us, down to the very last drop of his most precious blood. This was always the goal of his Incarnation to share unreservedly in our sorrow, to rescue us from unending death and fear; and so, his coming down to us in Mary’s womb reaches its culmination on the cross, for there he can reveal the unimaginable breadth of God’s compassion. Jesus allows himself to suffer, because he can do no less. And it is there in this very weakness, the weakness of love, that he reveals the sublimity of his divinity. (Walter Kasper) On the cross God is most truly God. His power is made perfect in his weakness, and his power can reveal itself only in our weakness. And battered now as Church, angry and hurting, perhaps we have come to realize our weakness more than ever. Is it opportunity? Perhaps.
Photograph by Brother Brian.