About a month ago I went to Sankt Augustin for my background check. There I visited a family with three children. One of the children is highly active and full of energy. He never seems to get tired of jumping around. This child managed to get on a table and wanted to jump from there to the floor. The mother who saw him ran to him quickly and got him from the table. Why did she do it? It is because she knew the boy would have injured himself if he had jumped. Yes, there is none of us who does not want to protect those we love from suffering. Parents are always on the lookout to protect children from all the human dangers that each child faces on the way to maturity. Saving a loved one from pain brings deep fulfillment and joy. St. Peter was no exception. The bond between him and Christ had grown so deep in the past few months that he was appalled when Christ spoke of his future suffering in Jerusalem. Peter would not have any of this nonsense. He assured Christ that such a conversation was out of place. However, sometimes we overprotect ourselves by causing those we love to miss out on many learning experiences.
Hence, today's gospel brings us that awareness. We are therefore invited to always call on the Holy Spirit for guidance through prayer. When we are filled with the Spirit of God, we become enlightened and can know. Whenever Peter was filled with the Spirit of God, God could reveal the truth to him. But in this gospel, he was guided by the flesh. Therefore, without God's Spirit in our lives, we will run away from God's glorious works. Without prayer, pain and suffering will always lead us to seek the easiest way. In God's plan, Christ would suffer and die on his way to resurrection and glory, on his journey to open the door of God's eternal life for us. Christ was lonely and afraid in his torment, but he knew that no matter what happened, his father would not leave him. The path of suffering is the path of life that many people travel. It is comforting to believe that no matter what our torment is, God will never forsake us.
Jesus now turns to each of us here and makes the demands of the gospel and all that they contain. Whether someone comes after him is voluntary, but once we have made up our mind, we need to know that his path is not an easy, comfortable path. It requires constant self-denial, a no to yourself, and a yes to God. He, therefore, reminds us that "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for Jesus' sake will find it." This implies that we must die for our false selves, for all forms of selfishness and self-promotion. Every day we are allowed to die in small ways for ourselves - for our pride, for our selfishness, for our lust for pleasure and power, etc. We are supposed to die so that the true self can be born.
To live with Jesus means to give space to the living God in my life. To live with Jesus means, with Jesus, to accept what life brings me. Joy and sorrow, success and defeat, resurrection, and cross. That means living in the Christian faith. Today the gospel makes us aware of it anew.
By Fr. Ouwakpare Victorin Oussoi, SVD.