Indeed, when Jesus begins to speak openly of the fate that awaits him in Jerusalem, in other words that he will have to suffer many things and be killed in order subsequently to be raised, Peter protests saying: “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you” (Mt 16: 22). It is obvious that the Teacher and the disciple follow two opposite ways of thinking. Peter, in accordance with a human logic, is convinced that God would never permit his Son to end his mission by dying on the Cross. Jesus, on the contrary, knows that in his immense love for mankind the Father sent him to give his life for them and that if this should involve the Passion and the Cross, it is right that it should happen in this manner. Moreover he knows that the last word will be the Resurrection. Although Peter’s protest was spoken in good faith and for sincere love of the Master, to Jesus it sounds like a temptation, an invitation to save himself, whereas it is only by losing his life that he will receive new and eternal life for us all.
If, to save us, the Son of God had to suffer and die on the Cross, it was certainly not by a cruel design of the heavenly Father. The reason is the gravity of the illness from which he came to heal us: it was such a serious, mortal disease that it required all his Blood. Indeed, it was with his death and Resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death and re-established God’s lordship. Yet the battle is not over. Evil exists and resists in every generation, as we know, in our day too. What are the horrors of war, violence to the innocent, the wretchedness and injustice unleashed against the weak other than the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God? And how is it possible to respond to so much wickedness except with the unarmed and disarming power of love that conquers hatred and of life that has no fear of death? It is the same mysterious power that Jesus used, at the cost of being misunderstood and abandoned by many of his own.
Dear brothers and sisters, in order to bring the work of salvation fully to completion, the Redeemer continues to associate to himself and his mission men and women who are prepared to take up their cross and follow him. Consequently, just as for Christ carrying the cross was not an option but a mission to be embraced for love, so it is for Christians too. In our world today, where the forces that divide and destroy seem to dominate, Christ does not cease to offer to all his clear invitation: anyone who wants to be my disciple must renounce his own selfishness and carry the cross with me. Let us invoke the help of the Blessed Virgin who followed Jesus first and to the very end on the way of the Cross. May she help us to walk in the Lord’s footsteps with determination, to experience from this moment, even in trial, the glory of the Resurrection.
Pope Benedict XVI
August 31, 2008
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