Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

Homily Skeleton

The artist, Andy Warhol once said that everybody is famous for fifteen minutes. However, we see that that is not entirely true in the Gospel today. it seems that Peter is only famous for about fifteen seconds.

Last week, and only 6 verses earlier in the Gospel of Matthew, Peter answered the $100,000.00 question correctly. Jesus asked him -- Who do you say that I am?

Peter answers -- You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus continues -- Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.

Pretty impressive stuff. If the disciples were in earshot of all this, it would have definitely put an end to any speculation about who was the leader of the disciples -- or who was the leader of the church. Peter was famous.

Nevertheless, 6 verses later Jesus uses the strongest words ever attributed to him when we hear him say to Peter today -- Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

Why does Jesus say this?

Jesus just told his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly and be killed.

The natural, human, response from Peter was -- God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!

Sounds like a reasonable thing to say to me -- your friend, leader, mentor, teacher, messiah tells you that he must suffer greatly and be killed and you respond in shock and insist that it not be so.

Ah, but he was thinking as a human and not as God.

We are all guilty of thinking like human beings, huh? It is pretty hard to think like God. But sometimes we get glimpses -- insights.

We all have those moments when we make a discovery about something that puzzled us in our faith, or in Scripture and we have an Ah-Ha moment.

About six years ago I was in Cuernavaca Mexico for two months over a summer digging ditches to build footings for an addition onto a mission church. It was hard work, and between the sweat and drinking the water, I lost about 35 pounds. My friends tell me that I need to go back, but this time for four months. Some friends, huh?

I remember taking a tour in English (Thank you, God, for I was not doing so well with the Spanish Language) in the beautiful cathedral there. On a large door of the Cathedral are listed the beatitudes -- the first being -- Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For a very long time I never really quite got that one. What did that mean? What does poor in spirit mean and why are they blessed? I read it for years as -- lacking in spirit -- and I did not know what that meant or why they were blessed. And, on that tour I learned that it meant those who were humble, those who recognize the incompleteness or poverty of human resources and thus realizes their utter dependence on God. That was one of my Ah-Ha moments.

Well, if you are like me, this thing confuses you once in a while too (pointing at the large cross over the altar). There have been many times that I have looked for an Ah-Ha moment with this thing.

How does all this work? Why the cross? How does suffering lead to redemption? How could the Father allow his Son to be crucified? Why this way? How his all humanity redeemed through this action?

Ultimately it is a mystery. And we should not be afraid of mystery.

We can not think like God. And that is okay.

But what about this command to carry our cross and follow Jesus? How do we do that if we do not fully understand the mystery of the cross and how it all works?

What does this command really mean?

It means that sometimes doing the will of God is hard, and involves suffering.

It means that sometimes following the example and teaching of Jesus is a real challenge.

It means that doing the right thing and loving our neighbor can be downright dangerous.

It means that sometimes loving demands sacrifice.

And so many of us here are already carrying crosses. You do not have to go looking for them. They find us.

And I think if we could see each others crosses we would be humbled and in awe.

You have denied yourself a thousand times over and have done God the will of God by raising a family and all of the personal sacrifice that goes with that. You have gone without so that your kids could have advantages that you did not have.

You have endured the hardships of supporting that family member or friend in his or her struggle with an addiction. You have put up with the cycle of victory and defeats, ups and downs because of the command of Jesus to love.

Or your dealing with that addiction yourself and digging in and trying to walk the straight line.

You are a teenager and you are determined to live a life of virtue and chastity when it seems to you that no one else is. And you think you may pay a price for that. You will sacrifice popularity and hanging with the crowd that calls themselves cool.

You have devoted what seems to be your life to caring for that physically or mentally challenged child or infirm, elderly parent because it is simply the right thing to do and you do it out of love.

You have lost a child or your spouse and not a day goes by that you do not think of that person you have lost, but you find the strength to stand up and carry on and continue being a giving person when you feel that everything in life has been taken from you.

You have carried around a hurt so deep and so stinging for years and even decades and you have never spoken about it to another soul and there have been times that you have wanted to act out in anger and revenge and rage, but you have resisted and turned the other cheek and responded with love.

How will your stories end? Where will carrying your cross lead you?

Maybe through more suffering. Maybe to death. But I know how this story ends (pointing to the cross).

Suffering is conquered by joy.

Death is conquered by life.

Darkness is conquered by light.

Crucifixion is conquered by resurrection.

Our faith tells us that despite our suffering and sacrifices our stories will end the same way if we pick up our own crosses and follow Jesus.

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