Choosing the Cross

09-03-2023Pastoral ReflectionsColleen Jurkiewicz Dorman

I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never been called “Satan,” at least not to my face.

It seems to me the worst name you could call a person, and today we hear it straight from the lips of Jesus. It’s just one of the many small reminders strewn throughout Scripture that Jesus preaches meekness, but he is not mild — not when mildness serves no purpose, anyway.

And here, when Peter is trying to deter Jesus from making the right choice, mildness serves no purpose at all.

Can we blame Peter? I certainly can’t. I’m sure I would have said the same thing to my own dear friend. He is, in today’s Gospel, wholly unwilling to embrace the cross — he’s afraid of it, even — but aren’t we all, in the end, afraid of our cross? I am. It’s no sin, it’s only human. Fear is natural. Self-preservation is a reflex.

What Christ speaks of today is a choice, one we are all faced with, again and again, just as Peter is. We will not always respond perfectly; Peter does not respond well today. He does not respond well on Holy Thursday.

But on his last day, on the day of the ultimate choice? On that day, he chooses the cross.

We marvel at first responders who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others, because to do so is not human, it is divine. I have to believe that if even a firefighter’s loved one threw themselves in his way, he would still charge toward the flames, crying, “Get behind me.”

Christ runs into the burning building for us, shaking off not only his own fear (and he had it, I promise you — he was human, too) but the fear of everyone who loved him.