24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the Prophets.”
Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.
And Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are thinking not as God does, but as humans do.”
Jesus called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “Whoever wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.”
Our Gospel reading carries some similar themes from last week. Again, Christ asks those gathered not to share the news with others. Perhaps this is for his own fear, knowing what will happen to him eventually? Surely the disciples would have heard his message, and want to reassure Jesus that it could not be true. Maybe Jesus knew that this news, that He would die and be raised up again in 3 days, would be seen as even more scandalous than the news that He was the messiah, thus eroding His credibility.
Unlike last week, Jesus is directly challenged by Peter, who chastises Him for asking them not to share this news. This direct challenge is a result of Peter’s zeal – which is distinctly human problem. Perhaps he is missing the ‘self-emptiness’ needed to be open to receive instruction from Christ? This is the same theme from last week – this radical openness that we are called to. Unlike last week, this is addressed in the final verse of the Gospel reading. “Whoever wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.”
This reading brings to mind the Lenten hymn: Take up your cross and follow me (hymn text below). Today we are reminded that we are called to task; we are called the same as during Lent: called to give up all worldly pursuits, and to follow Christ.
Take up thy cross, the Savior said,
If thou wouldst My disciple be;
Deny thyself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after Me.
Take up thy cross, let not its weight
Fill thy weak spirit with alarm;
His strength shall bear thy spirit up,
And brace thy heart and nerve thine arm.
Take up thy cross, nor heed the shame,
Nor let thy foolish pride rebel;
Thy Lord for thee the cross endured,
And saved thy soul from death and hell.
Take up thy cross then in His strength,
And calmly sin’s wild deluge brave,
’Twill guide thee to a better home,
It points to glory o’er the grave.
Take up thy cross and follow Christ,
Nor think til death to lay it down;
For only those who bear the cross
May hope to wear the glorious crown.