On Jesus’ passion and discipleship

Published August 29, 2020, 11:39 PM

by Manila Bulletin

MATTHEW 16:21-27

Jesus began to show His disciples that He must 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. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He 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.”

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father’s glory, and then He will repay everyone according to his conduct.”

Carrying our cross in obedience and joy 

God called the 20-year-old Jeremiah to be a prophet to the people of Judah. His mission was to admonish them from their depraved and evil way lest doom would come upon them. It was, to say the least, a very difficult mission because most people during Jeremiah’s time listened only to the wisdom of adult men. Besides, Jeremiah had a speech defect and, worst of all, his message was unpalatable. When the doom that Jeremiah predicted did not happen, people mocked and scorned the young prophet. He was accused of treason and attacked physically.

The First Reading is Jeremiah’s soliloquy exposing his struggle with his own conscience. He bares his heart out to the Lord, regretting that God called him to be His spokesman. Jeremiah wishes to dissociate himself from God, but he recognizes that this is impossible because God has become a real and living presence, a part of Jeremiah’s whole life and person.

This young prophet is seen as a prototype of Jesus Christ. Like Jeremiah, Jesus is sent by God to proclaim the good news of God’s Kingdom. And while Jesus will be rejected by the elders and religious leaders, He will first struggle and agonize over His impending death on the cross. Jeremiah and Jesus—the prophet and the Savior—both overcome tests and trials and remain faithful to their mission until the end.

When Jesus sees His death on the cross looming on the horizon, He starts to talk to His disciples about His suffering, death, and resurrection. If the Apostles want to be His true disciples, they should be prepared to suffer along the Via Dolorosa. Peter remonstrates with Jesus, declaring his allegiance to the Master and assuring Jesus of protection. Suddenly, it is no longer just Peter whom Jesus sees before him but Satan. The devil is putting a stumbling block along the Via Dolorosa. Jesus is teaching His Apostles about fidelity to God in the form of suffering and sacrifice, but Satan is pushing for a soft and sweet life.

Paul, in the Second Reading, tells the Christians of Rome, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Jesus is realistic in facing evil in this world. He works to improve the lives of people who suffer. At the same time, he points out that every struggle or experience of diminishment and death always ends up in new life when we carry our burden in obedience to God and with a joyful disposition.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2020,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.