When a person is critically ill and there is nothing more that can be done, some folks refuse to accept the inevitable. They do not want to speak about death. They would rather go to the famous river in Egypt—de Nile.
Living in denial is a popular means to escape reality. St. Peter did not want to hear the truth. Jesus was going to be killed. “God forbid, Lord!” “No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Jesus had told His disciples exactly what was going to happen. So that they could be prepared—no surprises. Peter wanted no part of such a terrible ending. He thought that by voicing his opinion all would be well—the evil would just go away. However, Jesus accused him of being evil for not wanting to face reality. Evil always presents an illusion. The illusion is always more appealing than the reality. The name of the illusion is temptation. Temptation is not a sin unless we give consent. Peter’s suggestion that Jesus avoid the Passion was a temptation. Our Lord was tempted countless times. The last one was on the cross. The voice came, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” “Stop the pain.” “You do not have to endure suffering.” Jesus could have come down from the cross because He is God. He had no need to die. He died for us, so that we would not have to die. Through His death He restored humanity to original innocence. Our sins are forgiven even before we ask. Our debt has been paid.
The devil did not want something so wonderful to happen. Satan tried everything in his power to stop salvation from being won. So, he spoke through the mouth of St. Peter. At time he disguises himself in the people that we love. Jesus recognized the source and called him Satan. He had just made Peter the head of the Church and in the next moment called him Satan. Consider how different our life would be if we would recognize evil and separate ourselves from temptation. However, temptation is often attractive, exciting, easy on the eyes. Although we tend to focus on sins of a sexual nature, there are much worse. Slander, avarice, apathy. Family, which is God’s first idea is what evil wants to destroy. The blatant neglect of family responsibilities is evident. The symptoms are that some children never see their parents; pornography is at an all-time high; violence is prevalent in many homes. The symptoms are all around, but we do not want to see them. If we dare to acknowledge the voice of Satan, then we are compelled to make changes. We do not like changes because we get comfortable. Change is usually uncomfortable. Remember that Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” That’s a mouth full. Takes a lifetime to digest. When was the last time we denied ourselves anything? Have we intentionally deprived ourselves of anything? If the doctor says that we must lose weight, stop drinking, stop smoking—we just change doctors. There will be a day of reckoning, where we will not be able to hide. Jesus invites us to take His side—His side is the cross. The cross is not easy, but possible. That’s why He set the example—to show us the way. Changing behavior is easy. Changing our attitude is difficult. The prejudices pile up to the point that we feel paralyzed. Fear combined with prejudice can block the grace of God. Peter was afraid. He had probably been hurt by people in authority, so he might have had a prejudice. He did not want Jesus to suffer. Jesus invited him to be free. He inspired him to transcend the limitations of human fear and to trust in God’s providence. When has God abandoned us? When have we suffered beyond our capacity? The Lord gives us constant strength to keep our head above water—regardless of the circumstances.
The one constant theme in the Bible is: Be not afraid, I am with you always.