Summary: Look, you need to know this man died. He was tortured and executed. It was awful.
In the book, How to Disappear, there are true stories of people who faked their own deaths to collect on life insurance policies, or simply to start over. To catch them, specialists are hired. The book says many get caught by doing things like visiting their mother. Or, they chose a new name that is very similar to their old name. Or, they Google themselves a lot.
A private investigator from New York named Steven Rambam says, “People do a remarkably limited amount of planning when it comes to faking their own deaths. Faking your own death is a full-time job, and I can guarantee you that if you slip up with even the slightest sign of life, we will find you.”
1. Sin and worldly passions are put to death by the Cross. Not even the slightest sign of life left. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
St. Paul is saying that we ought to be dead to the glittering temptation that is really fake, to have the world dead unto us; and, if you are spiritually crucified the world, it can’t bother you.
When do I place the world’s values above God’s commandments? How can I discern what God wants from me?
Pope Pius XI said, “A plain cross has no blood and no nail holes - it has no trace of suffering - yet it was the love of a suffering God that saved the world. When a cross is plain, we are deprived of seeing this truth...we are deprived of being reminded of how much God loves us and how He has proved his love...we are deprived from the comforts of seeing this and we may turn in towards ourselves rather than to our Crucified Lord.”
Mary Hinkle talked about the dangers of forgetting about the Cross, “I was recently part of a small focus group that offered feedback on a newly designed website for the seminary where I teach. We talked for a while about the colors, the graphics, the menus and submenus, and then one of the group members said, "Nowhere on these pages is there a cross." She was right. I was surprised, but even more stunned and chastened by the realization that I had not even noticed its absence. I wondered where else we were not clearly saying, "Look, you need to know this man died. He was tortured and executed. It was awful." Source: Lesson Plan (James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38) by Mary E. Hinkle).
Peter had wanted a messiah who could miraculously change the military, economic, and political situation of Israel. He initially could not accept how our Gospel today begins with Matthew 16:21, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly.”
As Jesus says to St. Faustina in her Diary: "There is but one price at which souls are bought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross. Pure love understands these words; carnal love will never understand them." (324).
To live involves sufferings but to survive means a person must find meaning in that sufferings, and Jesus is saying that we can offer up our moments of suffering to save a soul.
The Good News is that Peter taught the Church to cherish the message of Christ’s death and so not be frightened by it. The cruel passion that Jesus foretells shares an integral relationship with the good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus has announced that new unending life follows.
2. Lastly, we hear in our Gospel today something you could only say to a really good friend: “Get behind me, Satan.”
Jesus isn’t saying that Peter is evil incarnate. Peter is being an obstacle. He is standing between Jesus and God’s plan because Peter was rebelling against suffering like Jeremiah’s outburst in our First Reading, “You Duped me O LORD.” You played a trick on me. Jeremiah was sent to announce that the Kingdom of Judah would be taken captive and he is placed in the stockade for his warning.
"Circumstances" comes from two Latin words: circum, "around", and sta’re, "to stand.” They appear to place an obstacle that lies between me and my acceptance of the grace of God in the moment, according to his master plan.
In times of troubling circumstances, just surrender. Peter got rebuked by Jesus because Peter was demonstrating his need to "overcontrol" pretty much everything in life, even God, when he just needed to yield to God’s saving plan.
Our Lord teaches us today, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”