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Last week in the Gospel we heard how Jesus gave to Peter the keys to the Kingdom of heaven, his authority here on earth: the authority to bind and loose, to forgive sins, to declare Christian doctrine, to govern the Church. Really to represent him on earth. But this week we hear that just a few moments afterwards being chosen Peter becomes the first to try to prevent Jesus from accomplishing his Father’s will of suffering and dying on the Cross to pay for our sins. If Jesus did not die, there would be no resurrection from the dead. There would be no salvation for the world. I think many of us Christians can identify with Peter: We can say we are Christians; but within a short time when things get tough and we feel the cross, we begin to get weak in faith.  

We might feel duped, tricked, that we bit off more than we can chew by following Christ, that we got seduced by his loving words and his promises of blessings in this life and complete happiness in then next. But then the trials come, the dark night of faith – those moments when we have to choose between our Christian calling and our natural worldly way of understanding things. It might mean facing a temptation of the flesh, like pornography or choosing right from wrong when faced with drugs or alcohol. It might mean being made fun of for being a Christian. It might mean sacrificing work or time doing other things to go to Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation. It might mean sacrificing your pride in order to go to Confession. It might come in the form of asking forgiveness.

We see that the Christian life is not easy to follow, that it involves sacrifice and suffering, that it means picking up our cross daily and following after Christ. It is kind of like a newlywed couple who get married and it’s all about the loving feelings which are good and beautiful and great gifts from God. But then comes the commitment, the sacrifice, the sufferings of misunderstandings, differences in personalities and goals in life. Then comes the taking care of little ones, financial challenges, and different religious beliefs. During these trials many marriages fail. But when couples embrace them as their crosses then Jesus gives us the grace to carry them.

Christ offers us many great things in the Christian life, but we must sacrifice other things to get them. We can either encourage one another in this truth or discourage one another. If you are following your faith and some tells you: “Oh that’s too hard, Oh, you should get out now, you should quit now, nobody really takes that seriously anymore,” then are doing what Peter did to Jesus.

As humans it is just natural for us to start thinking like men do and not like God. We allow Satan to lead us and not Jesus. Satan tempts us to follow the weaknesses of the flesh and not the wisdom of our faith. As he tempts us to follow an easier way, he tempts us to give up our souls, to forfeit our salvation. So we need to recognize these temptations and say: “Get behind me Satan!” even if we have to sacrifice certain things, certain events, forms of fun or entertainment.

St. Paul puts it this way: “[O]ffer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is the Christian life. Are you living the Christian life? Are you discerning God’s will? Are you offering your body as a living sacrifice to follow it, or are you sacrificing your salvation for the pleasures and the easier ways of life? Let me encourage you to pick up your cross and remain faithful to Christ Jesus. Yes it is hard, it is difficult, but it is worth it. Friendship with Jesus here on earth and the promise of eternal life in Heaven.

You have heard about the situation in Iraq where thousands of Christians have been killed for Christ. There is a story where the terrorists entered one place and threatened an old man to convert or they would kill everyone in his village. The man said “no,” and so everyone was put to death. What made him do that? Love of God and neighbor. If he would have denied Christ to save his on life he would have taught everyone else to do the same. Jesus puts it this way: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

What things in your life are causing you to deny your Christian faith? Are they worth losing eternal life? What if Jesus would have listened to Peter in the Gospel today, skipped the suffering and dying to preserve his life. Then we would have not been saved. As Christians we are going to face similar moments: We have to be like Jesus and learn to detect Satan's temptations and say "get behind me", even if it is something we like or even if it hurts the feelings of someone we love. Christians suffer when the world tempts them to give up their faith to live a life of ease, luxury, entertainment, and pleasure. We have been given a great promise at our baptism. Now we must live it. It is a choice between self-preservation and self-sacrifice, living for your own self or being a disciple of Christ. Our choice will determine our conduct, and our conduct will determine our eternal reward.

It is easier to say you are Christian than to live like one. It is easier to do sinful works than to do good works. But do not deny your faith for gain of money, to get a job, for pleasure, popularity, or even to preserve you life. Let us choose to follow Christ. Pick up your cross daily and follow after him. If you fall down get up and pick up again. Heaven is worth it. God bless you.

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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