Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Jesus tells in today's Gospel that we must take up our cross daily and follow him. We follow him because that is exactly what he did. Fortunately for most of us, we will not be nailed to it as he was.
There is not a person on this Earth that has not or will not experience suffering in their lives. Just like death, we cannot escape it, hide from it, or avoid it. Suffering may come to us when we least expect it and we must be prepared to deal with it.
So, how do we do that? Well, as followers of Jesus, we do it with the knowledge that God will give us the strength to endure our suffering, no matter how bad, how long, or how often it occurs. We should not turn from God when we suffer; we should turn to God for help and strength. God does not cause our suffering; it may come from others or it could even occur because of decisions we have made. I guess the point is, we should not blame God for what we endure.
Jesus came to teach us that God loves us. He took upon himself our human condition and experienced all of the suffering we experience and then some. We have a great example to follow in Jesus; a God who knows first hand about human failings and human suffering. In healing the sick and forgiving the sinners, he tried to alleviate the pain and suffering of others.
This is also what we are called to do as followers of Jesus. We gather in community and help one another. We must support one another in times of trial and accept the support of others when it is our time to experience our own pain and suffering. We are the body of Jesus and as such we are called to respond to others as Jesus responded to his followers, friends, and community, with love, compassion and forgiveness.
So as you go through this week, my prayer for each of you is that you recognize God's presence in your life when life turns sour; and that you recognize the pain and suffering of others around you and become Jesus for them.
May God bless you all.
Reverend Sue Provost
St. Valentine Faith Community
"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)