The happening at Caesarea Philippi is told in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It was an important event in the relationship Jesus was developing with the Apostles. Jesus asked them for a bit of feedback: “Who do people say I am?” But more importantly He wanted to know who He was to them. “Who do you say I am?” Peter takes it upon himself to answer for all. “You are the Christ”
In Matthew’s telling of this event he extends Peter’s answer: “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” Jesus tells Peter ‘flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father in heaven.” In other words, Peter you did not come to this understanding of Me on your own; this is a gift from My Father.
Now Jesus goes on to tell the apostles, ‘but there’s more to Me that you have to understand.’ He tries to teach them that His future will involve hatred, hostility, betrayal, suffering and death and then resurrection. Jesus is telling them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about Himself. It was a truth with which Peter could not cope: “This must never happen to you Lord.” In Luke’s gospel Jesus calls Peter, Satan. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus calls Peter the rock on which the church will be built. This is the whole truth about Peter, a rock with fault lines and Jesus accepts the whole Peter, with all his faults and all his strengths just as He wants Peter to accept the whole Jesus.
When Jesus talks about taking up the cross He is not talking about illness or disease, there is nothing particularly Christian about cancer or Alzheimer’s or a broken hip or heart attack. These can happen to anyone. The cross He is referring to is the type of suffering that is likely to befall a person for being His follower, the negative consequences that can happen when a person really tries to live her/his live modeled on Jesus. This cross is the cost of discipleship.
Remember the song, ‘All of me, why not take all of me”? That’s what today’s gospel is all about; we have to take the whole Jesus, the whole Christ; not just the Christ of signs and wonders, the Christ who gave sight to the blind, speech to the speechless, hearing to the deaf. Not just the Christ Who cured lepers and even raised the dead, not just the Christ of the Transfiguration. The whole Christ involves the Christ of Gethsemane, the Christ betrayed and abandoned by His friends, the Christ humiliated before Pilate, the Christ rejected by the crowd, the Christ crucified on Calvary – the Christ glorified in His resurrection.
Jesus invites us to accept the whole of Him in the living of our lives and be willing to pay the cost of discipleship.
I was on a TV program last year and the subject was on “what is happiness” I suggested that if we want to be happy we can pray and live the prayer of St. Francis which captures the teaching of today’s gospel:
Make me a channel of your peace – where there is hatred let me sow love – where there is injury pardon, where there is doubt faith, where there is despair, hope – where there is darkness, light – where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console – to be understood as to understand. – to be loved as to love.
It is in giving we receive, in pardoning we are pardoned and in dying we are born to eternal life.
The gospel and the Prayer of St. Francis call us to place the common good and Christ at the centre of our lives and not our own needs and desires. It is our free choice to live a life imitating as best we can Jesus, Who loved us and gave His life for us.
As we continue to celebrate the Eucharist in which Christ gave Himself totally for us and to us we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we be graced to accept and imitate the whole Christ, the Christ Who suffered and the Christ Who is glorified, the Christ Who is with us in all our sorrows and in all our joys.