Who can assure us that we will be alive tomorrow? Let us listen to the voice of our conscience, to the voice of the royal prophet: “Today, if you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.” Let us not put off from one moment to another (what we should do) because the (next moment) is not yet ours. ~Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina
Gospel text (Lk 9,18-22):
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"
They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, "One of the ancient prophets has arisen.""
Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God."
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.
He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised."
The gospel today is a fairly simple message, one that ought to make sense to us. But I would like to emphasize a word that I, at least, tend to just skip over: must.
Must is an interesting word with an interesting context. “I must go to work in order to make the money to pay the bills.” “You must always treat others with dignity and respect.” “One must first be an adult before they are allowed to vote.” From the sounds of things, “must” seems like a trap: a series of shackles that inhibits your freedom and keeps you from doing as you wish. So, was Jesus forced, obliged, coerced to be beaten by strips of leather, stabbed by a crown of piercing thorns, and then above all, to be crucified upon a cross?
The choice was made in an act of freedom; more importantly, by an act of nothing but pure love. Being fully human and fully God, Christ had every means to get himself down from the tree, or hide from Pilate’s army. Then again, he had every means to turn stone into bread, to worship Satan, or tempt his Father by thrusting himself from a mountain. But he chose not to do such, just as he chose to be crucified for you and I. That makes things personal; conscience and morals become involved. Christ did not have to die to for us; he rather knew that his actions would bring a greater good.
We are therefore left to better appreciate this act above all other acts. We must come to recognize that our own freedom is a gift that we are called to share with each and every one of our own brothers and sisters. I have come to learn that what “I” believe is not nearly as important as what “we” believe. And it is in this fashion that we strive to take something personal and make it something even more personal with each other.
That my friends….is simply a must.