Following, and being followed by, the cross.
by Unvirtuous Abbey
Gospel Reading: Matthew 16: 21-28
For Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011: Year A – Ordinary 22
The last time I was “taken aside” was on a trip to Minneapolis, MN. As I stood before the airport scanner, I was told to empty my pockets, take off my shoes, take off my ring and watch, and remove my belt. Being patted down can be a humiliating experience.
But that was the point of being taken aside: being rebuked; to be reprimanded; to be disapproved of.
Shown the Way
This story is a teaching moment. Jesus is showing his disciples what being a disciple means: going to the centre of power, confronting the leaders of the day (and yes, suffering because of it), and then ultimately dying to protect others. “From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples…”
For the rest of his life on earth, Jesus shows them (and us) what is divine in this world: words, healing, stories, transforming, walking, holding, breaking bread, lifting up, and yes, confronting empire.
And he shows them what is human: oppression, mistrust, marginalization, stoning, ethnocentrism, and eventually, ultimately, crucifixion.
What’s scarier is that Jesus reveals that there is a fine line between what is divine and what is human.
Jesus argues that Peter has quite clearly aligned himself with human things: denial. Peter is afraid of what Jesus is saying, and responds to his fear by saying, “Don’t say that! You can’t die!” Jesus names Peter’s weakness here, and Peter will display denial yet again when his fear confronts him.
Peter’s fear doesn’t allow him to absorb Jesus’ words that he will rise again. And when he does that, he will always be with them, and each of us.
So here’s the thing: would we, who so boldly wear our Christian symbols as jewellery, wear them in a place where followers of Jesus get shot for standing up to empire? How does our faith respond to our fear, or to say it differently, how does our fear limit our faith?
This past week, I saw U2 in concert. The highlight of their show was when representatives from Amnesty International surrounded the stage holding globes of light representing people who had been, for all intents and purposes, “taken aside.” At the end of the concert, U2 sang a song they have not performed for a long time called, “40”. For years, the band ended its concerts with that song, with people singing it long after the band had finished. It is based on Psalm 40. “How long?” asks Bono, “To sing this song?”
How long indeed. Protests around the world against government censorship and torture confirm that the song must still be sung. We must still confront fear with faith.
The Way of Powerlessness
One way of living life, says Jesus, is bondage. It is fear, it is power, and it is control. The other way to live life, he states, is just the opposite. It is powerlessness; it is losing control, and in that moment, giving your fear, and therefore your life, to God. He says it like this, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
As Christians, we don’t follow the cross. We follow the teachings of Jesus. And when we follow the teachings of Jesus, sometimes the cross comes our way.
The Hardest Question
When everything seems so wrong, how do you speak up for what is right?
Unvirtuous Abbey appeared on the Twitter scene on August 6th, 2010. They are a slightly sarcastic, yet hopeful, group of monks. They try to elevate the conversation with humorous tweets about the Bible, God, and Jesus. They also pray about geeks, Guns and Roses, and Charlie Sheen. They have been interviewed by The Times -Union, The Practical Catholic and the Virtual Abbey. They consider themselves lucky to be among the guest bloggers of “The Hardest Question” and readily trade chores for the chance to write…anonymously, of course.