Following in the passion of Jesus


WE saw Peter expressing faith in Jesus as the Messiah. That faith entails the commitment to take care of and serve the Church against the forces of evil and death. Thereafter, Matthew narrates how Peter has difficulty with the fact that Jesus is to undergo his passion (Matthew 16:21-27).

A crucified Christ

A turning point in the gospel is the announcement of Jesus about his approaching suffering and death in the hands of His enemies. The violent reaction of Peter to this information was understandable. How could the Messiah, the Son of the living God, be subjected to ignominious suffering and even death, and at the hands of the religious leaders of the people, and in the holy city of Jerusalem? How could one who has shown His power and authority in His teachings and deeds be assigned such a terrible end?

This scandalous reality may actually not sound so shocking to us today because we do not really dwell on it, except perhaps once annually during the Holy Week. In our world so violent with its culture of death we can easily be inured to the cross of Jesus, so much so that it no longer makes any impression on us. A movie on it comes around and it jolts us into some renewed awareness. Otherwise, the cross is everywhere as part of the décor or a piece of jewelry.

A satanic idea

Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.”

Although Jesus must have felt that His friend’s reaction was out of love for Him, nonetheless He found it unacceptable. It reminded Him of Satan in the desert who cunningly tried to make Him deviate from the path in accord with the Father’s will by suggesting that He thinks of himself first of all and above all (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus brooked no compromises when it comes to doing His Father’s will. There is only one place for Satan and anything satanic: behind Him and out of His way. Nothing, no friendship can be allowed to be an obstacle to Him in His mission. Peter had not yet comprehended that Jesus would be the Messiah, not in a political and worldly manner, but as the obedient and suffering servant of God.

“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Of course, Peter was only human. But someone who has received God’s revelation about the Messiah and has entered into a special communion of faith with him is expected to be taken up by something more than just what is human. His thinking, as well as his values, now needs to transcend merely human aspirations and vested interests. Peter and the faithful must become Jesus Christ’s kadiwa (one in spirit) in his total submission to God.

Alálaong bagá, having faith in Jesus’ way and life means to identify with Him and to make His announced passion one’s destiny. To love God above all and even to offer one’s life if need be in order to be true to Him is what the cross symbolizes for the followers of Jesus. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The standard of our faith is to be cross-carrying. For what do we live? Jesus has shown us the way to union with God, as it goes through suffering and death. We hesitate and are diffident to go that way; we instinctively try to hang on to this life and play it safe according to the ways of the world. And we are inattentive to what Jesus says, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” By our lives and actions we really proclaim whether we are children of this world or, one with Jesus, the children of our heavenly Father.

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