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On Jesus’ passion and discipleship

Gospel Reading: Mt 16:21-27
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “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 will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

To carry the cross freely
Invited to be God’s prophet, Jeremiah demurred, pointing to his young age and lack of experience, especially in public speaking. God, however, assured Jeremiah of his unfailing help, touching his mouth and promising him that he would be given the words to speak at the proper time. The reluctant prophet was tasked to preach to his countrymen regarding the impending destruction of Judah and Jerusalem brought about by their many sins and their worship of false gods.

Jeremiah’s deep and abiding concern for the people of Judah and Jerusalem is met with ridicule and scorn. The prophet now cries out to God, claiming that he has become the laughingstock of many people and is even threatened with death.

Worst of all, his situation has become intolerable since Jeremiah feels that the word of God has chained him. He cannot forget the Lord and he cannot refrain from speaking in his name. God’s message has become like a fire burning in his heart.

While Jeremiah pictures a prophet bound by God’s word, Jesus in the Gospel is the image of God’s servant who freely accepts his impending passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus will thrice prophesy his paschal mystery. When he first makes this prophecy to his disciples, Peter remonstrates and warns Jesus against such end: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (v 22).

Earlier, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is? (Mt 16:13). Jesus appreciated Peter’s answer and even commended him, reminding him that such answer actually came from the heavenly Father.

In the Gospel, after Peter glorifies Jesus as the Christ, Son of the living God, the Apostle turns into a devil.

Jesus calls him a stumbling block because in Peter’s design to shield Jesus from any form of suffering, Peter is unknowingly impeding God’s plan.

Peter operates on a very human way in trying to protect Jesus from danger and harm. Peter and the other disciples get the surprise of their life when Jesus speaks beyond preserving one’s life in this world. While the Apostles dream of a political Messiah or a military liberator, Jesus speaks to them of the cross that he is about to carry. Jesus tells them that the very symbol of sinfulness, shame, and dishonor will now be their badge of glory. And if they wish to follow him, the Apostles have to think according to God’s way. The Apostles therefore need to carry their own cross as well.

As we pursue God’s Word, it shall pursue us as well like what it did to Jeremiah. We also count on God’s unfailing help as we prophesy in God’s name. May we heed Jesus’ summon to us to carry our cross as we strive to become his followers.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.