Sunday, August 31, 2008

CROSS NOT OPTIONAL, SAYS POPE

Reflects on Peter's "Immature" Faith

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Taking up one's cross isn't an option, it's a mission all Christians are called to, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in the courtyard of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome.

Referring to the Gospel reading for today's Mass, the Holy Father reflected on the faith of Peter, which is shown to be "still immature and too much influenced by the 'mentality of this world.'”

He explained that when Christ spoke openly about how he was to "suffer much, be killed and rise again, Peter protests, saying: 'God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.'"

"It is evident that the Master and the disciple follow two opposed ways of thinking," continued the Pontiff. "Peter, according to a human logic, is convinced that God would never allow his Son to end his mission dying on the cross.

"Jesus, on the contrary, knows that the Father, in his great love for men, sent him to give his life for them, and if this means the passion and the cross, it is right that such should happen."

Christ also knew that "the resurrection would be the last word," Benedict XVI added.

Serious illness

The Pope continued, "If to save us the Son of God had to suffer and die crucified, it certainly was not because of a cruel design of the heavenly Father.

"The cause of it is the gravity of the sickness of which he must cure us: an evil so serious and deadly that it will require all of his blood.

"In fact, it is with his death and resurrection that Jesus defeated sin and death, reestablishing the lordship of God."

"But the battle is not over," he added, "Evil exists and resists in every generation, even in our own. What are the horrors of war, violence visited on the innocent, the misery and injustice that persecutes the weak, if not the opposition of evil to the Kingdom of God?

"And how does one respond to such evil if not with the unarmed love that defeats hatred, life that does not fear death? This is the mysterious power that Jesus used at the cost of not being understood and of being abandoned by many of his followers."

"Dear brothers and sisters," the Holy Father continued, "to complete the work of salvation, the Redeemer continues to draw to himself and his mission men and women who are ready to take up the cross and follow him.

"Just as with Christ, it is not 'optional' for Christians to take up the cross; it is rather a mission to be embraced out of love."

"In our present world," he added, "where the forces that divide and destroy seem to prevail, Christ does not cease to propose his clear invitation to all: Whosoever wants to be my disciple, he must renounce his selfishness and carry the cross with me."