Today’s and tomorrow’s Gospels confront the reality that both Christ’s mission and our own involves suffering. In today’s Gospel, Peter is quick to answer Jesus’ question, “who do you say that I am,” with the reply, “You are the Christ.” But he follows up that answer by rebuking Jesus’ suggestion that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly…and be killed, and rise after three days.”
Jesus raises the stakes even higher in the continuation of Mark we will hear tomorrow. Not only must the Son of Man suffer, but “whoever wishes to come after [Him] must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow [Him].” For only those who lose their lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel will save their lives.
One can only imagine the disciples’ reaction. It was one thing to follow Jesus while he went around healing and feeding people, calming the seas and preaching that the mighty would fall and the poor be lifted up. But taking up the cross and suffering must have sounded like quite another thing.
Yet, the invitation to the cross is one intended for all of us. Jesus asks us to follow His example out of love for Him, to give our whole life for God. That is not always easy and the temptations to do otherwise can be strong.
As I write this line, I look at the plaque on the wall near the door of my study that reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and I pray for the grace and strength to follow His example.