The mystery of each human life both fascinates, and at times, frustrates us. Since we can never know another person fully (’til heaven!), we’ll never completely know both the heights of their joys and the depths of their sorrows. Yet, God gives us the "key" that unlocks a deeper understanding of and acceptance of others. It is in service and suffering that we most deeply get to know and love others.
In the Gospel, Peter knows that Jesus is the Christ. Yet his knowledge of who the Christ would be was limited by the prevailing view of who the Messiah would be, what he would do. Most of the Jewish people of that time looked for a triumphant, liberating Messiah, one who would free them from Roman rule. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah was not their picture of Messiah. Jesus would show in his Passion that he was indeed the one who :"…gave my back to those who beat me…my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting." His whole life in service of others would be poured out on the wood of the cross.
Jesus told us that: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take us his cross and follow me." We all know people who heroically serve others, a son or daughter dealing with autism, a relative who suffers from depression. In taking up the cross in our lives, we most deeply enter into the sufferings of others. The cross, freely accepted, becomes a source of strength, endurance and beauty for those who follow in Jesus’ steps.
I think of one of our parishoners from Holy Family parish in Birmingham, G., who cares for her brother who suffers from schizophrenia. She told me: "How could I abandon him?" She has learned the message of Jesus deepy, she knows the sweet strength of the cross.
Lord, help us to be like her, like all of those who know your love and show it in deeds!
Fr. Bob Bovenzi, C.P. is a member of the Passionist community stationed in Chicago, Illinois.