During these last weeks we heard how the people and even his disciples did not recognise the true identity of Jesus. Today Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” After listening to their replies, he repeats the question, but now in a more personal way, “who do you say that I am?”
It is Peter, who replies on behalf of all the rest. His answer is correct: “You are the Christ.” However, Peter’s reaction after Jesus explains what he was going to pass through, shows that this was not the Christ (in Greek the anointed, chosen one), the Messiah (the word in Hebrew), that Peter wished for. The Jews had long waited for the Messiah. They awaited a saviour who would free them from the Romans. However, Jesus does not promise to fight the Romans. He tells the disciples that he would suffer, die and rise again after three days. Peter could not accept that Jesus, who was the Messiah, would have to suffer and die. After Peter’s reaction, Jesus addressess not only the disciples but also the people present and tells them that to follow him, they had to carry their cross. In those times, the cross was abhorred. Thieves and bad people were crucified. It was a cruel death. It was also very downgrading since the person condemned had to carry the cross to the place of crucifixion. We know all this because this was the way in which Jesus died. When Jesus said these words, he was not saying that those who follow him would be crucified, even though many did (and still do) give their lives for the love of him. Jesus is telling us that to be his disciples, we will face choices, some of which will be difficult and include a lot of suffering. Following Jesus does not mean choosing a comfortable way of living. However, Jesus promises us that after our suffering, after our commitment to follow him, we will be rewarded with eternal life.
No one asks to be burdened with a cross. When we are passing through difficult times, we pray that they will pass. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, prayed so that he would not have to carry the cross which awaited him. However, he was God’s obedient servant. Jesus had full trust in the Father. For this reason, he went through all the suffering, through the crucifixion and death. We know that the story does not end there. As Jesus tells us even in today’s Gospel, after three days, he rises from the dead. Carrying our cross means that we live like Christ, so that after this life, we receive what he has promised us, eternal life.