esus didn’t mince his words to Peter: “Get out of my sight, you Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” Did Peter deserve such harsh words from the Lord? After all, he simply wanted Jesus to avoid any suffering. He loved Jesus and hated the thought of Jesus’ being rejected and put to death. Was that so wrong?
What was wrong was that Peter got Jesus so wrong. Peter had correctly identified Jesus as the Messiah, but mistakenly thought that the promised Messiah would defeat Israel’s enemies; would restore the nation’s power and prestige; would bring about prosperity; would usher in an era of “good times.” But, rather bizarrely, Jesus spoke of a future that included suffering and death as the road to resurrection and peace.
The lesson of this Sunday’s Gospel is simple: that more than ever we need to understand that life entails suffering — that love requires us to “die to self” to live for the other.
We live in a world that does all it can to deny the reality and the value of suffering. Many refuse to face their problems and attempt to distract themselves with work and hobbies. Some “cure” their problems with alcohol and drugs. Many expend an incredible effort to keep from feeling the hurt of life.
We all have witnessed human disaster stories. Every family can recount stories of tragedies that would have been avoided if people had the sense and the courage to deal with the reality of their lives. Suffering that is not attended to will mount up and explode.
Today, Jesus teaches us the necessity of taking up our cross, of facing up to the problems, difficulties and sufferings of our life. He will give us the courage and grace to deal with what comes our way.
Going back to Peter, he learned his lesson and learned it well. Fortified by the power of the Holy Spirit, he willingly faced the persecution that is an essential part of following the Lord Jesus. He led the early Church with great wisdom and gave his life as a testimony to his love of Christ. May we learn our lesson as well.