REFLECTION: We must reach out in service to the most vulnerable

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

You may recall in last Sunday’s Gospel, we also heard Jesus talking about his coming torture and execution, then Peter telling Jesus, “No, that doesn’t have to happen.” And Jesus telling Peter, “Get behind me you Satan because you’re speaking in human terms not according to God’s way.” Now Jesus tells him again about his passion and death, although in the meantime other things had been happening.

He had gone up to the Mount of Tabor and was transfigured before three of the disciples, experienced God’s amazing love in a very profound way. Then he had gone on and they were traveling along and curing people, teaching and so on. Then in today’s Gospel, once more he tells them what’s going to happen to him. I can imagine Jesus must have been getting a little bit frustrated because, again, even though he made it very plain what was going to happen to him, they did not want to hear it.

They did not want to really know who Jesus was and what was going to happen to him, how he was going to make the reign of God happen, not through power, might and military force, but through suffering and responding to hatred and violence with love — an amazing way to overcome evil, only by responding with love. In today’s passage, Jesus makes that love not just something that happened to him at the end of his life when he poured forth his love on those killing him on the cross, but by his constant service to others, always reaching out to the poor and the most vulnerable, healing, teaching and exhorting and praising and comforting.

The disciples are thinking (as Peter had as we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel) that Jesus, because he was this wonderworker, he had such a huge following. They could overthrow the Roman Empire. They could set the Jewish people free, rebuild their temple and make it the source of worship without any hindrance from the Romans again. But that wasn’t the way. Jesus calls them to a life of service, “If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me in serving others.”

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