Today’s Gospel reading is from Luke, (LK 9:18-22). It includes Simon Peter’s declaration, inspired by the Holy Spirit, (see Matthew 16:17), that Jesus is “the Christ of God.” Christ means Messiah, the anointed One. He is the One that Israel has been waiting for, He will liberate the people from slavery and oppression. But, of course, Christians believe that the slavery we’re delivered from is sin and death. And we believe that the liberation is the freedom to seek the supreme good, the will of the Father.
Jesus perfectly exemplifies this for us in His crucifixion, in His total surrender to the will of His Father in the agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, in His passion and death. And in His Resurrection. That last event is the Best part, to put it extremely mildly. Jesus is all about doing as His Father desires for the good of all humanity.
Immediately after this declaration about Jesus being the Christ, in Luke’s version, Jesus then foretells what the Divine Plan includes, and most of it’s not pretty. He tells the disciples of His suffering and dying and His rejection by those who uphold and represent the Law of Moses and on what the entire Jewish hope and faith is based upon. It’s kind of a huge deal. And then, and then, Jesus says that on the third day He will “be raised.” Resurrection is not just being revived, it’s not just a heart being made to beat again. The Resurrection of Jesus, true God and true Man, means God has raised up the glorified body of Christ, who went to ‘hell and back’ to save us, and ascends to Heaven. That Resurrection of Jesus is our hope as Christians that we, too, will be raised from the dead in our glorified bodies to live with the Lord forever. That’s where following the will of God gets you. That’s what true freedom is.
When you walk around knowing that this is not the end. And when you believe that Jesus died out of God’s amazing love for us – an unconditional love that forgives anything, that sacrifices for everyone, even the unworthy (which is all of us), that goes down to the depths of humiliation, pain, betrayal, and abandonment to save you – it gives you a certain hope that gives you an authentic joy which even tragedies and sufferings in this life cannot ultimately take away from you.
That’s what today’s reading is about. We Catholics will spend a lot of time meditating on the passion (suffering) and death of Jesus. Some people think it’s weird. Maybe it is. But it also is the very thing that gives us hope and joy. Yes, we recall the Resurrection, too. But Jesus has to die to be raised up. We all have to die to live again. And to live again – not in some puny material world, (yes, I know our world is beautiful in many places and in many ways, but eternity with the Lord will be SO much better) – to live eternally in the glory of our Triune God.
That’s what a true believer will get the privilege of experiencing. Yes, we also suffer and that, too, is a privilege. It’s a privilege to be united in the suffering of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our God. Maybe we dwell on the suffering of Christ so much, because it makes our suffering easier to bear. And, it reminds us of that unfathomable love and mercy of God. He can forgive anything. Believe it. Look at that cross and believe it. God yearns to have all of His children with Him. He’d love it now and He especially wants it for us in eternity.
Here’s an amazing song from a Catholic artist, who spends a little time in the recollection of Jesus’ suffering, and his own (put yourself in his place; it’s about the suffering of each of us). Ever feel lonely, abandoned? So did Jesus. Ever feel betrayed? So did Jesus. Ever had someone deny they know you or reject you from the community (family/friends)? So did Jesus. Ever experience humiliation? So did Jesus. Ever suffered emotional/physical/psychological pain? So did Jesus.
He sums it up in a few words, it almost seems inconsequential, in today’s Scripture excerpt. But it was everything for humanity. It saddens me that more people don’t believe this truth. It saddens me that so many in our society don’t know this truth. I’m doing what I can to assist. Send me a message if you have any questions. God bless us all.