Jesus does not beat around the bush. If you are truly one of my disciples, here is the plan for your life:
* Deny yourself.
* take up your cross.
* and follow me.
This three-part life-plan was leveled at Peter and Jesus’ first disciples. As I mentioned in my sermon last weekend, Peter first proclaimed Jesus as the Christ, and the Savior of the world and today he refutes Jesus’ words that He soon would: “suffer greatly and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Peter is voicing a protest that any disciple-friend should say about the Master whom he loves and follows. Peter is willing to do anything to prevent Jesus from following this path to the cross. In some ways this is a good reminder of the unpredictable life of discipleship. At any moment we can be strong in our resolve to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, and the next moment it can turn into a time of doubting. What Jesus then tells Peter and the others is especially important. No one is ever forced to follow Him nor journey on His path unless they choose to do so. Twice Jesus uses the words: “Whoever wishes.” Discipleship can never be forced or unnatural, it must be a desire and a freely chosen commitment. Jesus explains that if Peter had listened to His teachings correctly, he would have known what it would take to be a committed disciple.
During this second quarantine period I am sure that none of us have to look too far to see the suffering and death that this pandemic has placed upon our world. It is all around us and I really question if this is the cross that Jesus is asking us to ‘take up’ to follow Him! But I do think that when we obey quarantine, mask ourselves, stay socially distant from one another, and continue to wash our hands, that we are uniting ourselves to the ‘suffering-Christ’ of today’s world. Perhaps this is what He meant when He said that we must “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is Gods.”
When we obey both instructions, experience some tensions and do not grumble, then we are united with Him in thought and deed. We have all had to adjust our lives and ways of worship these past few months. We currently can come together for Mass and for that we should be appreciative. It is not the way we are used to celebrating, but we are celebrating. We have had to curtail some aspects of our worshipping, but we are able to worship. We are not able to enjoy singing, but we can use words to voice our prayers to God. We cannot physically exchange the Sign of Peace, but we can send this greeting through a wave or blink of an eye. These are minor adjustments compared to some of our brothers and sisters who are not able to gather for prayer or worship together.
I am in no way trying to lessen the severity of the pandemic situation, but I am trying to heighten our need for hope and prayer. As Jesus said to Peter, we need to say to this terrible virus: “Get behind us Satan,” and do not ever come back! If this is a cross that must bear, so be it. If this is the way to show our reliance on the power and love of God…so be it!