Great leaders down the centuries have inspired their followers by leading from the front and not asking them to do anything they themselves were not prepared to do.
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Endurance enables true character
Shackleton, the great Antarctic explorer’s harrowing exploits with his men and their unbelievable survival is a case in point. What he and his men achieved was something way beyond their original goal. It’s as if the unexpected and immense hardships they endured enabled their true colours to come to the fore.
Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one was not what was expected in a Messiah. He was no temporal ruler come to destroy Israel’s enemies, to be exulted and showered with honour. He was a humble itinerant teacher honest about the suffering which lay ahead and the cross he would bear if he continued to speak and act the way he did. St Peter on the one hand had discovered deep in his heart who Jesus was but he couldn’t cope or comprehend this talk about the cross and suffering. Criminals were crucified. We can be like that when it comes to the suffering we endure. We are tempted to run away from it.
Jesus chastises Peter because he saw him trying to prevent him from doing what he knew he had to do. Humanly, Christ was struggling to come to terms with what he knew he had to face. It was a temptation for him just like Satan tempting him in the desert. He had the power to avoid the cross but chose not to.
How often have people tried to prevent us from doing what we need to do? They may have the best of intentions but in the end their ideas or advice can hold us back and prevent us from responding to our God given call. Sometimes we must stand up to those who are nearest and dearest.
Just think if Suzanne Aubert, that wonderful early church pioneer in Aotearoa/New Zealand and founder of the Sisters of Compassion, had stayed home in France as her parents had wanted or she had obeyed the Bishop of Auckland and returned home dejected and let down. If she had not with her sisters remained committed to work among Maori and given witness to a practical hands on faith by providing for abandoned children and those in need. And if the early Marist missionaries to this country had allowed their fears of the unknown to stifle their Gospel fervour. Or after arriving sailed back home again because things were just too difficult. What would happen if parents and caregivers gave up making sacrifices for their children and loved ones and if Church workers and volunteers stopped giving of their time and generosity?
Christ does not ask anything of us that he himself was not prepared to do. He asks us to take up our cross and follow him. So many people have responded to Christ in this way and have been the inspiration for others to follow. What is he asking of us today?