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."
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
"For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
A certain Priest who was very fond of horseradish — the real thing, not the adulterated stuff that is half horseradish and half turnip — carried a bottle of it with him when he went on holiday. While he was eating dinner in a hotel restaurant, another diner at the next table said he was from a far away country and was curious about the bottle in front of the Priest’s plate… “Try some”, said the Priest… The stranger needed no second invitation. He placed some of the horseradish on his plate, and then put a heaped spoonful in his mouth. His face immediately turned red, his eyes bulged, and tears ran down his face. He swallowed convulsively two or three times, and grabbed a glass of water, which he immediately poured down his throat, followed by a second, and a third… Looking reproachfully at the Priest, the stranger said, “I have known many men of God who have preached hellfire and damnation, but you, sir, are the first I ever saw who carried a sample right along with him!”
This past week someone was good enough to point out something about the last two sermons… They believed – erroneously – that during the sermon a few weeks ago that I essentially referred to everyone as “dogs” and then this past week I was kind enough to imply that we were all “prostitutes” of a sort… I suppose I need to stay away from those Baptist hell fire and damnation web sites… But it was suggested that I might consider easing up a bit… Not that I actually said those things.. I think it had more to do with a guilty conscience than anything I may have said, but, none the less, I had to agree.. and so have chosen for this week a topic that is a bit more genteel.. so the text I’ll be working from today is the from what Jesus spoke in our Gospel, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”.. Can I get an “Amen!?”
Actually.. why don’t we start from there and see where it leads us. Our Gospel reading last week was Matthew 16:13-20… the reading this week is Matthew 16:21-28.. it is a continuation of the conversation between Jesus and his disciples… Last week we said that Peter got the Gold Star for answering Jesus question correctly… Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”… Simon Peter answered, “You are the
Messiah, the Son of the living God.” … Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven”…. Less than four verses later, Peter has his Gold Star snatched away… "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."
What happened?... Peter misunderstood.. when Jesus had blessed him he also said, “I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Peter heard those words and probably thought to himself, “Hooraah! We’ve got our king and now we are going to be kicking some behinds and taking some names!”.. but then Jesus starts talking about how he must die.. and Peter can’t understand how they can form a kingdom without Jesus at the lead… but as we all know.. and as Peter would later understand.. Jesus was not talking about an earthly kingdom.. but the heavenly one.. and this kingdom will not be won with sword and shield.. but instead by taking up our own cross – as Jesus has done – and following him. It is a battle for the soul.. not the body… and the battle for the soul is won in the way of the cross.. and that is not an easy battle and not everyone is up for the task.
As Thomas a Kempis writes, “If you were but worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus, what great glory would be in store for you, what great joy to all the saints of God, what great edification to those about you! For all men praise patience though there are few who wish to practice it.” But it is in the suffering of the cross that we find our victory… Again, Brother Thomas writes, “In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope of everlasting life but in the cross.”… Dare to become a holocaust in the bearing of your cross.. and bear it patiently as Jesus bore his..
For most in the Christian faith and a great many outside of it.. this is nothing new.. You will always hear someone say, “Well, we all have our cross to bear.”.. but within the Christian faith.. it doesn’t end there.. because just when we’ve about figured out how to bear our own cross.. then it seems that God calls on us to be a Simon of
… Who’s he?.. “After they had mocked Jesus, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene , named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.” Cyrene
“My goodness.. I’ve got enough on my plate without having to put up with this nonsense… Fr. John.. have you SEEN the size of my cross? Do you have any idea how heavy it is.. and now you are telling me I’m going to have to help someone else with theirs? You’ve GOT to be kidding?” – Nope.
What did we hear in our Old Testament reading today – Fr. John’s translation – “Hey Moses.. I know you’ve got all these sheep to tend.. family.. all that.. but I want you to head on down to
land and help my people carry their cross.”… What did Paul say to the Romans.. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.”… In other words.. Get in there and help others with their crosses.. and as God was with Moses.. He will be with you also… and just as you bear your own cross patiently.. bear this one patiently as well… Let me explain that one… Egypt
There are days when we all need help with our own cross. There WILL be days when we are the ones calling out to God and anyone else who will listen to help us with our cross and there is nothing wrong with that – If there is a day when you need help with your cross and you DON’T call on me – as soon as your done hurtin’.. I’m gonna’ hurt you all over again!
.. but if you are the one being called in to help.. then don’t be the one making the most noise! You know what I’m saying?... ____ calls you up and needs you to be a Simon of
.. Their cross is too much (and yes, there are some whose cross is ALWAYS too heavy for them to bear – but that’s another sermon), but for those who sincerely need you—How do you respond? Well, sometimes we end up making more noise than the one calling… “Oy vey! .. would you look at the size of this cross I have to bear.. and now.. now.. I’m needed over here.. I just don’t know if my back can take anymore”.. affectionately known as the martyr syndrome.. Don’t do that… just get in there.. put your back into it.. and lift.. lift… As you become a holocaust in bearing your own cross.. do the same in your zeal to assist others with theirs. Cyrene
What is the result of becoming a holocaust for the Cross of Christ? I would like to tell you that your own burdens will become lighter … truth is.. they won’t.. it will definitely make your work a bit more difficult. I would like to tell you that you will receive extra special blessings from God.. maybe a couple hundred years off purgatory.. or a bigger mansion in heaven.. but that’s not likely to happen either. Truly.. the only thing that will happen.. is that you will learn. What will you learn? … you will learn a bit more about what it means to love as Jesus loves… For some.. that is no reward… but for others – those true lovers of the Cross of Christ – it is the only reward worth… dying for.
Let us pray… Take courage, beloved, let us go forward together and Jesus will be with us. For Jesus' sake we have taken this cross. For Jesus' sake let us persevere with it. He will be our help as He is also our leader and guide. Behold, our King goes before us and will fight for us. Let us follow like soldiers. Let no man fear any terrors. Let us be prepared to meet death valiantly in battle. Let us not suffer our glory to be blemished by fleeing from the Cross. Amen.
And just in case you need a bit more hellfire and brimstone, I leave you with this...