Vocation Meditation -
September 13, 2009
Jesus went on with his disciples to the village of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" And they answered, "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."
Walking in Ceasarea Philippi with the background of the temple of white marble which Philip had built to Caesar, the Roman Emperor, who was regarded as a god by the Romans, Jesus asked His disciples about what people say of Him. For Peter, Jesus' words, actions and authority come from a Godhead that is totally different from this. It is divine! Peter, now fully open to Jesus' teachings and with deep faith, declared before his companions that Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God! Jesus must have been pleased by this act of faith of Peter but He added immediately a stern command not to tell anyone about it yet. For Jesus had to teach Peter and the Apostles what his true Messiahship really meant.
It is not violent, nationalistic, vengeful and destructive. Jesus as Messiah is Jesus who brings truth, mercy, healing, goodness and freedom from sin. The Messiah, whom the Apostles will soon follow more closely in Jesus, is the God-man that embraced humanity, accepting the humiliation of the Cross and through it, obtained salvation for the world.
Hence, following Christ means taking up one's cross for His sake. To shy away from daily embracing our cross is to distance ourselves from the ways of God. For God, Jesus' death on the Cross was the only way to bring humanity back to God. It was radical. It had become the sign of Christian discipleship.
Every time we bear our cross, the saving power of God heals the world, re-creates creation and God is glorified.
"You are the Christ."
Who is Christ for me? Do I accept this Christ who carries His cross of self-denial to walk in fidelity to God?
I declare each day, "I want to follow You." Help me understand the radical meaning of carrying my cross. Let my acts of self-denial open me up each day to Your love. Let me not shy away from pain and struggle. May Your ways of the Cross inspire me to discover that my vocation is for greater giving for Your sake. Amen.
For the full Gospel reading for this Sunday, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops site.