Homily for February 16th, 2017: Mark 8:27-33.
At his first Mass in March 2013 with the cardinals who elected him, Pope Francis spoke about the gospel reading we have just heard. Here is what he said:
"The same Peter who had confessed Jesus Christ said to him: 'You are the what he said:Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let’s not talk about the cross. This is not a part of it. I will follow you in other directions, but not to the cross.’
“When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but we’re not disciples of the Lord. I would like for us all, after these days of grace, to have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.”
All of us must walk, at one time or another, through what Psalm 23 calls the valley of the shadow of death, when the clouds of doubt and discouragement seem to shut out the sunshine of God’s love. When we wonder why that should be so, why we cannot have a religion of Easter only, without Good Friday, we need to remember: Jesus could not have that. Neither can we. Take the cross out of our faith, and you have ripped the heart out of it. Good Friday and Easter belong together. Behind the cross of Good Friday, we must see the open portal of the empty tomb. And through that open portal of Easter morning, we must always see the cross, where Jesus offered all for us, even life itself.
That is where all the great lessons of life are learned: at the foot of the cross.