Once upon a time a little boy asked his mother: “Mommy, when do I get to be God?” If you ask me, that’s it in a nutshell – the Original Sin – we all want to be God. We want not only to control our own little world, but we also want to tell God how things should run. This is what we see Peter doing in today’s Gospel. Peter, the extrovert, pipes up and says what the others are thinking. He speaks for us, too. He wants Jesus to be strong, not weak. Jesus rebukes Peter maybe because he, Jesus, is tempted to hang on to his divinity. But Jesus needed to identify with human beings, with how they are weak and tempted and with how they suffer. God allows us to experience our weakness so that we see just how much we need God. If we didn’t, we’d think we were God. Remember the little boy, “Mommy, when do I get to be God?” Experiencing our weakness, our neediness involves a dying to self so that we might rise in Christ. Jesus died to self. There is a bottomless need in each of us to feel strong. But so many things in our post-modern American lives prove to be weak substitutes for God. They fail us. Witness our use of technology. To look at us, you might think we worship it as the Israelites did the golden calf. We feel lost if we misplace the phone; if our internet connection fails; if our computer screen crashes or our printer doesn’t work. We feel it when we or a loved one receives the diagnosis of a serious illness. It brings us to our knees.
Where is the help for this? We turn to Christ. A classic exercise is to pray before a crucifix, asking Christ: “Did you ever feel what I am feeling?!” This is why Jesus said “That the Son of Man must suffer greatly …… and be killed and rise after three days.” This is why he rebuked Peter. The Lord Jesus needed to enter deeply the depths of human misery in order to co-miserate with us, to carry the cross. He does, indeed, know the pain we humans suffer. He knows the pain of the family who lost their two month old infant to SIDS, a terrible cross to be sure. Mary, the Sorrowful Mother at the foot of the Cross, knows, too. When we experience pain like this, we know that we are not God; we know we need a Savior. When we experience Christ lifting us from that cross, we able to answer the Christ’s question: “Who do you say that I am?” Each of us experiences Christ as savior uniquely. Let us pray that we can let Christ and his death on the Cross lift us high, tomorrow, the Feast of The Triumph of the Cross.