Overcoming the Fear of Suffering

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Readings for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor – Memorial

 

[Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Matthew 16:23

This was Jesus’ response to Peter after Peter said to Jesus, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22).  Peter was referring to the coming persecution and death that Jesus had just predicted in his presence.  Peter was shocked and concerned and couldn’t accept what Jesus was saying.  He couldn’t accept that Jesus would soon “go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21).  Thus, Peter expressed his concern and it was met with a strong rebuke from Jesus.

If this were spoken by anyone other than our Lord, it might be immediately concluded that Jesus’ words were too much.  Why would Jesus refer to Peter as “Satan” for expressing his concern about Jesus’ well-being?  Though this may be hard to accept, it does reveal that the thinking of God is far above our own.

The fact is that Jesus’ pending suffering and death was the greatest act of love ever known.  From a divine perspective, His willing embrace of suffering and death was the most awesome gift God could give to the world.  Therefore, when Peter pulled Jesus aside and said, “God forbid, Lord!  No such thing shall ever happen to you,” Peter was actually allowing his fear and human weakness to interfere with the divine choice of the Savior to lay His life down for the salvation of the world. 

Jesus’ words to Peter would have produced a “holy shock.”  This shock was an act of love that had the effect of helping Peter to overcome his fear and to accept the glorious fate and mission of Jesus.

Reflect, today, upon any way that you find yourself resisting the call to sacrificial love.  Love is not always easy and often times may demand great sacrifice and courage on your part.  Are you ready and willing to embrace the crosses of love in your life?  Furthermore, are you willing to walk with others, encouraging them along the way, when they, too, are called to embrace the crosses of life?  Seek strength and wisdom this day and strive to live by the divine perspective in all things, especially suffering.

Lord, I love You and pray that I may always love You in a sacrificial way.  May I never fear the crosses I have been given and may I never dissuade others from following in Your steps of selfless sacrifice.  Jesus, I trust in  You.

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