Finding God on Gannon’s Campus
This week’s Gospel is one that asks us a very profound question.
Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Now, I don’t know about you but that question sends a message to me, at least initially, that Jesus was taking a poll.
I often wonder why this was an important question for Jesus to ask. Jesus listens to the various thoughts of the people. Peter responds and then Jesus tells the disciples that this idea is carried further. “The Son of Man must suffer greatly by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes . . .”
This is not what we would expect from a king; this idea of suffering is a new one because in the ancient tradition there must have been someone in violation of the law or a person having a rough go must have committed an offense.
Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him concerning Jesus’ teaching. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” This is a threefold instruction that we will look at closer that may answer the original question.
How is this teaching applying to us at Gannon, in our daily lives? The teaching is clear and goes against what we are inclined to believe. Most of us think, “If I do good, good will come to me.”
That is a nice thought, but it’s incomplete and quite juvenile. Though understandable, the thought is based on society and the idea of the American dream.
Doing good and living a life based on the principles of the Gospel is a noble course, but don’t think for one moment that this is excluding you from “bad” things.
Jesus – the son of God – lived life, and look what happened to him. That should tell us something about what is to come.
“Deny himself.” This instruction doesn’t mean deny who you are. It does not mean hiding from yourself and being someone else’s image of what they say you should be.
Those times when bad things happen, deny what you think you should be and let the spirit work in and through you. It means going on when you think you can’t because your humanity wants you to quit.
But the Spirit is filling us up with graces we are not even aware of.
Deny what your natural mind tells you and what you may be inclined to believe from sources that have led you away from who you are. The Spirit works in the quiet of our hearts and leads us where it wills, not where we want.
“Take up your cross.” This one reminds me all the time of the short joke when a man complaining about the size of his cross is led into a room where he places the cross, he carries and is led in another room where he is instructed to pick up another cross. He does so, and is informed that he has the same cross that he had before. The message is that perspective is important and relative.
I spoke to a man in prison some time ago and he was angry about having been incarcerated for a crime he had not committed. The man was carrying a heavy cross and he was rightfully upset. After some time he found that the cross he carried was lighter when he gave it to Jesus and looked at his situation through the eyes of our Lord. He told me Jesus was innocent and was killed, so he “ain’t doing too bad.” He started to see the cross he had as part of a divine plan.
Being good doesn’t necessarily mean good things will happen to us. We may have absolutely no control over events that affect our lives in a very serious ways, but what we can do is respond with perseverance and great vigor and not give up.
“Follow me.” That means with the cross you have, and the person you are. This one is where we can see that image of Christ holding out his hand to Peter who wanted to follow after Jesus and walk on the water, and when he doubted, Jesus reached out to save him.
Hold a simple cup of water in your hand for a moment; then hold it for an hour. The light cup of water will become heavy and nearly impossible to hold.
When the cross gets heavy and when we are looking for answers, look to that crucifix in the classroom or office and see the price that was paid for you and me.
See the person you love the most standing at the gate of heaven, and you can let him or her in. Now see the person you like the least. You are called for the same duty in both situations.
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