Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and has just predicted his own passion and death. St Peter remonstrates with Jesus about this and Jesus says “get behind me satan”, as St Peter is acting and thinking in complete contrast to the will of Jesus and God, the Father. Jesus calls us to renounce ourselves, to resist that which puts us in opposition to taking up Jesus’s mission, his way of life and anything that prevents us from identifying fully with him. We are to lose ourselves in Jesus and not in the concerns of the world because to do so threatens our eternal salvation.
This means that our wills are to be secondary to God’s will and that we have to offer ourselves freely and not grudgingly to suffer for the Gospel and take up our cross. In doing so, we move from death to eternal life. Those who seek to be friends with the world and gain all that it offers, will not to able to exchange or trade the temporary trappings of this life for the real life which is eternal.
This life is temporary but the next is eternal. We often live this life without due diligence and preparation for the next. Do we only see crosses and sacrifices as something to avoid rather than something that leads us to the promise of life eternal? How seriously do we take Jesus’s own words that he will reward each one according to his behaviour?
Suffering and self-denial are difficult and are not compatible with modern life. They were central to Jesus’s life and they are to be the pattern for those who claim to be his followers. They are not optional choices but choices that align us to God’s will and promise us eternal glory. To gain the whole world, whatever form or shape that plays out in our life is an illusion because we might have many people eulogising about our life achievements after our death but we are not called to be successful as St Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said but faithful. “What then, will a man gain if he wins the world and ruins his life.”