24th Sunday (Mark 8:27-35) – The Power of Weakness
In today’s Gospel we heard, like a good teacher, Jesus engaged with the disciples in discussion and asked two questions. Jesus went from the easier one to the more demanding one: “Who do “people” say that I am? Who do “you” say I am?”
The first question got an immediate answer but to the second question, only Peter responded. The first question was: “Who do people say that I am?” This concerns our knowledge of Jesus. We learn this from our parents, teachers, the church teachings, and other sources. The second question was: “Who do you say that I am?” This concerns our own personal experiences with Jesus. Peter said, “You are the Christ.” Peter spoke from his heart and from his life experience with Jesus; this shows Peter was convinced that Jesus was truly the Messiah and Peter was ready to be part of Jesus.
But Peter was not ready for what came next! Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” Our knowledge and personal experience are not enough to be true disciples of Jesus; we have to enter into and embrace the cross of Jesus and stand firm in our faith in Jesus. These demand total sacrifice and self-giving.
Peter had learned about a Messiah of power and prestige, but Jesus talked about a Messiah of pain and suffering and that His way was the way of the Cross. Peter wanted a political Messiah, not a suffering one. Peter imagined status and fame, but Jesus spoke of denying oneself and picking up one’s cross.
The profession of Peter’s faith was very natural and spontaneous; it came from his heart and from his personal experiences with Jesus. Like each of us, Peter had his own moments of confusion, fear, doubt, and lack of faith; but all these failures brought him closer to Jesus and made Jesus love him more.
To graduate from the school of Jesus means moving out of our comfort zones into places where we take on the crosses of self-denial and self-sacrifice, places where we are unafraid to show who we really are, places where we are willing to show our weaknesses. Of course, this all depends on how we answer Jesus’ second question was: “Who do you say that I am?” God works in our lives in very personal ways, and we must answer this question very personally and intimately with God.
Let us try to be like Peter: to have knowledge of Jesus, to have personal experiences with Jesus, and be ready to carry our own crosses in our lives. To carry our own crosses means accepting our own daily lives and accepting God’s will in our daily lives. Therefore, we have to carry our own crosses without blaming or complaining, and they come in different shapes and sizes. Today, let us take a few moments to pray for someone, who carries a bigger cross than we do!
Recently, I heard a very meaningful story about reaching heaven. An angel appeared to a group of people and asked them: “Do you want to reach heaven? “In the group, everybody wanted to go to heaven. So, the angel suggested making a heavy wooden cross to carry up to heaven. Each one made a very heavy wooden cross and started to walk. After a few days carrying this heavy cross, the people found it was difficult to move on. But some were halfway and wanted to complete their journeys to reach heaven. In the group, there was a very smart and intelligent person who had an idea to cut off the ends of his cross to make it lighter. So, it was very easy for him to carry the cross, and he walked in front of the other people.
He almost reached heaven, but there was a river that he had to pass with no bridge across. He was a smart man but had no idea how to walk across the river. Slowly, the other people came to the river with their own heavy wooden crosses. They put their own wooden cross over the river and walked across and reached heaven. The intelligent man could not put his cross over the river because his the cross was too short and could not reach heaven. This is a very simple story, but it gives us a very meaningful message.
In our lives, too, we all have very heavy burdens and crosses to carry. Sometimes, like the intelligent man, we try to cut off the corner of the cross, and we want to carry the lighter and smooth cross, but God has given each of us the crosses according to the shape of our shoulders. Therefore, we have to carry our own crosses without blaming or complaining, and they come in different shapes and sizes!
Today, let us take a few moments to pray for someone, who carries a bigger cross than we do. Let ask ourselves: What is the cross speaking to us? Does it speak of the suffering and death of Jesus? Is it giving me any consolation and hope in my life? Let us listen to the words of St. Mother Teresa, “Only in the Cross of Christ will we receive power when we are powerless. We will find strength when we are weak. We will experience hope when our situation is hopeless. Only in the Cross is there peace for our troubled hearts.”!