Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
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.
If Jesus were a political candidate, Luke in today’s gospel would have him saying, “it’s the cross, stupid” instead of, “it’s the economy, stupid,” as from the 1992 presidential election. Jesus asked his disciples the all-important question, “who do you say I am?” He clarifies Peter’s response by telling them the “Earthy-Kingdom-Candidate” they think he is, restorer of wealth and power, he is not. Rather, Jesus is the Counter-Cultural-Candidate who by serving the will of the Father, not ruling, will suffer and die and be raised.
St. Padre Pio, who suffered the wounds of Christ crucified, understood Jesus’ salvific message perfectly. Amidst conflict and controversy regarding his spiritual gifts, echoing the core message of our first reading from Ecclesiastes, he said with indifference, “don’t worry and don’t ask why.” He, like the early disciples, cast his vote for Christ, took up his cross and served the gospel.
It is inescapable that we too will suffer if we support Jesus the Counter-Cultural-Candidate by being his disciples. But our faith tells us that suffering and sacrifice are okay because, despite the cross, Jesus-Risen promises us life-everlasting.
—Marty Massiello, a hospital administrator, and Jeff Weyant, an artist and designer, live in Palm Springs CA. They are members of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church and active at Verbum Dei, the Cristo Rey high school in Los Angeles CA.
Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us right faith, a firm hope, and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things act according to your holy will. Amen
—Franciscan Prayer for Guidance