Written by: Thomas Boyle, UF Student
Who is Jesus? Who do other people say that he is? All Christians should ponder this question in order to grow in our faith. Even Saint Peter, who is the first to call Jesus “the Christ” in the Gospel of Mark, did not understand what this truly means. So misunderstood about the nature of Jesus is Saint Peter that Christ exclaims, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mark 8:33). What is even more puzzling about this verse, besides the apparent harshness of the accusation, is that Peter had expressed concern that Jesus said He must be rejected and die. Jesus is very serious about the fact that He must suffer in order to live. We too, as followers of Christ, are called to share in this great and mysterious loss of life. It would be false to say that the essence of Christianity is merely embracing suffering for its own end, since it is only when we lose our life “for the sake of the Gospel” that we will truly be alive (Mark 8:35). Every day we should take up our cross and follow Christ to the hope of resurrection, for then we can really answer to ourselves and to the world who Jesus is.
Many people will call this pursuit of sacrificial love illogical, unreasonable, outdated, and so on, but even the first pope did not understand the truth fully at first. We should not be disheartened if we do not understand why the world seems to be full of contradiction and paradox. Part of the beauty of the Christian life is contemplating the mystery of the Cross, for this helps us to carry our own crosses with more purpose. Thomas Merton, an influential spiritual writer of the 20th century and Trappist monk, highlights this truth in his book New Seeds of Contemplation, “In dying on the Cross, Christ manifested the holiness of God in apparent contradiction with itself. But in reality this manifestation was the complete denial and rejection of all human ideas of holiness and perfection” (P. 62). What Merton helps point out is the grand paradox that the infinite God of Life died a physical death, which seems troubling to religious people and absurd to the secular world. The news of Jesus does not end at his death since we know the Resurrection restored life to humanity. For contemporary culture, part of the difficulty in accepting the Gospel is first accepting that we ourselves have, through our own sin, turned our backs on God and are not living as we should. Another part of the difficulty is a lack of introspection, which causes us to focus only on the earthly life and forsake the interior life of the soul. If we want to think more like God does, so to speak, we must humbly accept our own faults so that we can leave them crucified with Christ and then proceed to give up part of our own earthly lives to suffer for the Good News which brings us true life.