First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Second Reading: Romans 12:1-2
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27
“It shouldn’t be too hard.” That’s what a lot of us tend to think when we are faced with challenging situations. Sometimes a bit of wishful thinking helps us to ignore the magnitude of our tasks and consequences ahead of us. In today’s Gospel, when Jesus tells his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to be killed by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, Peter cries out against this idea by saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He had a predictable response, for he had just learned that his friend and master were to suffer and die. However, Jesus faced him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” It must have been very surprising to witness Jesus refer to Peter, his right hand who would be the rock for his Church, as Satan, the very enemy of Heaven. But Peter’s mistake was that he put his own agenda before the Lord’s, preferring the easy way out instead of trusting in the Lord’s great Plan.
The path of Jesus is not supposed to be easy, we all probably know that by now. Being with God in Heaven is not a reward that should be easily earned… it demands sacrifice. In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” To save us from sin, Jesus denied his innocence and refused to save himself in front of Pilate, he took up the cross carrying all our sins, suffered, and followed the path to Calvary. If we truly desire to be one with the Lord, we must also deny our selfish desires and fears, accept the challenges of our own lives and others, suffer, and persevere through life in the footsteps of Jesus. We must empty ourselves and be filled with the Lord for we know that the reward of everlasting life in Heaven is worth every step of the rough journey preceding it.