30 August 2014

THE MESSIAH AND THE DISCIPLE MUST SUFFER

XXII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
jeremiah 20:7-9; romans 12:1-2; matthew 16:21-27

islamic state militants have captured several christian (and yazidi) villages/cities in iraq. they gave the inhabitants a choice: convert, pay an exorbitant «infidel tax,» or die. refusing to renounce christianity, over 100,000 have fled… deprived of all their belongings—money, automobiles, even food and water—except their clothes. many—including children—have been killed. according to an arab news report, the militants have moved from beheading to burying people alive in mass graves. suffering, persecution and death is the lot of these christians.

these christians probably feel like jeremiah, who had a difficult time accepting the cost of being a prophet. 
the first reading describes jeremiah’s suffering in following his prophetic vocation. the people of judah and jerusalem hear his message as treason. he is attacked and tortured; he is isolated; he suffers so much that he tries voluntary retirement.

these christians probably feel like peter, who had a hard time accepting the cost of discipleship. he who protests the suffering, rejection and death that JESUS foretells the messiah must undergo. there is a certain necessity about JESUS’ suffering and death.
peter cannot understand! suffering has no place in his understanding of messiahship. the rock becomes a stumbling block! JESUS tells him to get behind him, to take his place as a disciple… behind the master. JESUS then challenges his disciples to walk with him to jerusalem and calvary: «if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.»
like the messiah, the disciple must suffer.

but messiahship and discipleship are not only about the cross; there is also the crown. JESUS believes that GOD will vindicate him on «the third day» [that is, definitely/ultimately]. and he promises his disciples a share in his glory and life if they carry their crosses.
the gospel has two sides: the cross and the crown. if we embrace the glorious side, and reject the suffering side, we falsify the gospel. 

each one of us has a cross to carry. what are the crosses in my life? am i willing to carry these and follow JESUS to my jerusalem and calvary? 
let’s pray for christians in iraq, and elsewhere, who are being persecuted for their faith.