(Jer.20:7-9, Ps.632-6,8-9, Rom.12:1-2 Matt.16:21-27)
The scripture readings of today’s liturgy call us to reflect on the phenomenon of human suffering in the light of our Christian faith. Suffering as we know is the bearing or undergoing of pain or distress.
SUFFERING can raise difficult questions about why God allows this to happen. Some people are of the opinion that, because God allows humans to make decisions for themselves, SUFFERING is as a result of the choices we make. However, SUFFERING of one kind or another is inevitable and so it remains a mystery. God must have his reasons for allowing such SUFFERING but the reasons are beyond human absolute understanding.
Nevertheless, owing to too many ‘challenges’ and ‘troubles’ which one’s faith and Christian commitment bring, there are times in our Christian life journey when one feels like forsaking one’s Christian faith with its demands of unrelenting love, straightforwardness, honesty, stand for justice and so on,
It is obvious that, sometimes some people tend to make life difficult for some others, simply because of their ardent faith in God, religious affiliation or their aversion to negative dealings and falsehood as a result of their faith.
In their evil scheming they would even voice out, ‘since you prove too wise and believe in God let your God come to your rescue.’ And they would even gang up to lay false accusations and threaten your elimination. All in the bid to force you to drop or forsake your faith and belief in God and then follow their life pattern of unbelief and falsehood.
No matter the kind of suffering or challenging situations which you may be passing through today, the Church enjoins us through this Sunday’s readings to see our own SUFFERING in the light of Our Lord Jesus who comes to suffer grievously for our redemption and as well invites all who wish to be His Disciples to carry His cross and follow Him. Also the prophet Jeremiah’s SUFFERING and challenging situation in the cause of his prophetic ministry among his people remains a point of reflection. Jeremiah had such a horrible and challenging situation during his prophetic ministry in the hands of the people of his time who threatened his life with so much persecutions.
In fact, at a point Jeremiah was almost at the verge of giving up his faith amidst his enormous SUFFERINGS and persecutions, that he prayed tearfully; ‘O Lord, you have seduced me and I let myself be seduced…, I am now a laughing stock in the eyes of the people all day long; everyone makes fun of me because of your word in my mouth, that proclaims violence and destruction. You word brings me insults and derision all the day long. And if I decide not to speak any more in your name, I cannot endure it because the word will be burning in my heart and bones,’ (Jer.20:7-9).
Like Jeremiah, sometimes we do find ourselves in similar faith-challenging-situation which stretches us so much to the point where we feel like giving up our faith to join the band wagon. We may say like Jeremiah. “Lord you called me to follow you and I thought this would be easy. But the path is so challenging and difficult.” In all these situations Jesus would still encourage us in the words of St Paul, ‘Do not conform yourself to the pattern of this world’ (Rom.12:2) but rather persevere in carrying your cross and follow me.
What is this cross which Jesus commands us to take up each day and follow Him? When my will crosses with His Will, then His Will must be done. Those things you pass through and endure because of your faith in the Lord. Those extra miles you go in your patience and letting go because of your faith. Those moments you insist on loving justice, sincerity and what is right irrespective of the opposing pressures to go the contrary. That is the cost of discipleship. It may not necessarily mean arrest, torture and execution but sometimes it could.
Whichever shape our cross takes, It becomes bearable if we carry it with Jesus and follow after Him. But when we carry our cross all alone or worst still, when we carry it and go our own different direction away from Jesus’ then, the cross will not only be heavier and unbearable but it will certainly become an object of inner distress anger and resistant complaint and with no gain.
May the Lord support us with His GRACE to enable us follow Him courageously and cheerfully with our daily cross, irrespective of the shape it takes. Giving the Lord the first place in your life and allowing His gospel message and values to determine your daily decisions and choices.