Aim: To learn from Jesus that the cross is often associated to love: it is “suffering for love”.
Three “passion predictions” of Jesus:
(Mk 8:31-33): Then Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things”.
(Mk 9:30-32): They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again”. But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
(Mk 10:32-35a.37): They were on the road, going up to Je-rusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him,saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again”. James and John came forward […] and said to him, “Grant us to sit one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory”.
Jesus did not want the pain of the cross; he did not want death, and he prayed to God that the cup would pass him by (cf. Mk 14:36). Indeed, we feel the same way and pray the same prayer in the face of suffering, don’t we? Jesus did not want to suffer. He did not feel good when his family doubted him, and when his friends betrayed him. But even so, Jesus was faithful to the law of life and love. He knew that, by caring for others and by putting the love of God and neighbour ahead of his own desires, he would have to suffer. But he also knew that God would “be glorified”, that many “lost people” would be found, and that he himself would “be raised up” in glory.
We do not know how to deal with the cross. In fact, we do not know what to do with it, except to avoid it or run away from it. The different reactions of the disciples to the three “predictions” of Jesus’ death somehow mirror our own experience. Sometimes, we react violently to sufferings, like Peter (cf. Mk 8:32). Some other times, we allow fear to numb our understanding of sufferings, by avoiding questions and resorting to silence (cf. Mk 9:32). And at times, we cover up our sufferings with illusory dreams of honour and prestige, like James and John (cf. Mk 10:37).
But Jesus, in the gospel, makes us understand that the way of suffering – which we often avoid and despise – may instead become the way to true wisdom and real gain. Those who suffer in communion with him and let themselves be guided by his word, will grow in wisdom, inspire other people, and save their own life for eternity.
From this Christian perspective, we may say that love and suffering are joined at the hip, and that the Cross of Christ has a power of spiritual magnetism: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (Jn 12:32).
Personal Reflection and Sharing
What are my habitual ways of reacting to sufferings? What results do I receive?
What stories are there behind my experience of “suffering for love”? What “wisdom” has this kind of suffering revealed to me?