Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Catholic saints have often appeared masochistic to nonbelievers. The idea of redemptive suffering doesn’t make much sense to rational animals with strong survival instincts and an overwhelming desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It is no wonder that the symbol of the crucifix, the Christ crucified that we preach, is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (1 Cor 1:23)
But the secret that people of faith understand is that Christ has given us a chance to unite our sufferings with His. He has deified the inescapable experience of affliction, giving us the opportunity to offer our lives for our neighbor in imitation of Himself on the cross. Aware that Christ’s offering on the cross is the supreme act of God’s love and self gift to us, we can no longer look at suffering and death the same way again.
Knowing this secret, we become courageous imitators of Christ, lifted up in our afflictions, made mighty in our humility. No longer do we scurry from the thought of suffering, as if it were a tragedy; we joyfully embrace it as the true victory – the redemption found only in Christ.
—Fr. John Brown, S.J.
Lord, when suffering strikes, it often feels impossible to understand the “why” for the physical and mental pain. We ask ourselves “What are we to learn from the suffering?” We remind ourselves that “Everything happens for a reason.” But still the fear can be shattering. We need you, Lord, to give us a new way to reframe our suffering.
Let us view our pain as an opportunity to lean on you more, to gain a deeper empathy for others’ hurts, and to earn a wisdom reserved only for those who have walked through the fire. If possible, Lord, please lighten our burden and help us to rejoice in the many good things in our lives.