My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
What triggered such a drastic reaction in Christ? Peter was pulling Jesus away from the cross. Peter had an idea of Jesus doing great things without the cross being involved. Jesus however opposed the vision which didn’t include the cross. Christ didn’t seek suffering. Christ didn’t seek an excruciating death. Christ however did seek to ‘offer his body as a holy sacrifice.’ It was to be a life giving sacrifice as we continue to celebrate it in our communities.
The situation in the Gospel shows Peter, who had just professed his faith in ‘the Son of the living God,’ falling into a subtle temptation of imagining the world without the cross. It is not a vanished temptation; it is still present in our midst. Recently I was reading an article about Iceland, the first nation Down-syndrome free. Do you think that they have discovered a groundbreaking treatment to eradicate the syndrome? Not at all. The solution they have found is sinister: the prenatal testing and abortion. Iceland became Down-syndrome free because all babies with Down-syndrome are being murdered. Denmark is going to ‘achieve’ that in 10 year, while Europe and America are not far from such an ‘achievement.’ Apparently it is going to make the world better and more beautiful. I doubt it because we are losing something precious the Down-syndrome people give us. Listen to these statistics:
99% people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives.
97% people with Down syndrome like who they are
96% people with Down syndrome like how they look.
How many of our schools and institutions can enjoy that?
St Paul in the Letter to the Romans wrote: ‘Do not model yourself in the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.’ The world without the cross is a sinister temptation. That’s why as Christians, following the example of Jesus, whom we preach as the crucified Lord, we have been always at the frontline of health and social care alleviating suffering in its various form. At the outbreak of A.I.D.S catholic religious were with patients when others were scared of contagiousness. However we also recognize that there is mystery surrounding human suffering when we are called to be with the person knowing that there is no cure or solution.
Henri Nouwen, a great writer and theologian but also a humble and faith-filled priest saw his mother dying not in the calm of peace but in the grip of struggle, even terror. He voiced than what was in his heart: ‘Why were we witnessing such pain and agony of a woman whose life had been one of goodness, tenderness and love?’ These are legitimate questions but without faith there is no answer. Nouwen contemplating the suffering of his mum started reflecting if his mother’s struggle did not reveal the truth of God’s love. Who was more loving than Jesus? Who suffered more than Jesus? Jesus’ life did not end in a tranquil death. He suffered an agony and his agony still echoes down through the centuries in those who suffer. ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.’
However it will happen only when Christ goes first and we follow. That’s why Jesus said to Peter: ‘Get behind me.’ Because when we push Jesus off the frontline and place ourselves there expecting him to follow us and to accept our vision for the world without the cross, we in fact create a sinister world. The world where killing babies is called an abortion; and murdering the vulnerable is called euthanasia.
My Dear Fellow believers! In this world where our voice as people of faith is played down we need again to stand behind Jesus and then we will have a beautiful view of the world and of our fellow human beings. Then we can offer to our world our contemplation of heaven in those who are united with heaven in their suffering.