My Brothers & Sisters,
I share with you from the Book “The Sunday Readings” by Father Kevin O’Sullivan on the Gospel reading.
Immediately after Peter’s confession that Jesus is the promised Messiah, our Lord tells his disciples that even though he is the Messiah – in fact because he is the Messiah, he has to undergo humiliation, suffering and a violent death at the hands of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.
In foretelling his suffering and death, which took place some months later, Christ intended to prepare his disciples and other followers for what he knew would be for them a severe chrisis of faith. He also took occasion from it to remind his disciples, and all others who would follow him, of what their attitude to suffering and death should be. He told them, and us too, that we must be ever ready to accept sufferings in this life, and even an untimely death if that should be demanded of us, rather than deny our Christian faith.
To prove their loyalty to their faith in Christ thousands of Christians in the early Church, and thousands more during persecutions in later centuries, gladly took him at his word and went joyfyully to their martyrdom. It is to be hoped that, aided by God’s grace, we would all be ready to imitate their example, if called on to prove our fidelity to Christ and our Christian faith. But at the moment what Christ expects and asks of us is that we should bear the sufferings and hardships of daily life cheerfully and gladly for his sake.
This daily carrying of our Christian cross can be, and is for many, a prolonged martyrdom. Poverty, ill-health, cruelty and hardheartedness met with heavy crosses which only a truly Christian shoulder can bear. But, if we were offered health, happiness, peace, wealth and power for the next fifty or seventy years on this earth, in exchange for an eternal heaven after death, what rational one among us would accept that offer?
Christians know that this life is a period of training, which makes us ready hereafter to receive the eternal reward which Christ has won for us. Every trainee knows that one must endure certain hardships and sufferings in order to merit graduation into one’s chosen profession or trade. On our Christian graduation day we shall please God, hear the welcome words: Well done good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater, come and join in your Master’s happiness” (Mat 25:21). May God grant that every one of us will hear these words of welcome.