There is great uncertainty in the life of our nation these days. Polls show not only a general distrust of leadership and institutions as they battle it out to stay in the EU or make a BREXIT. The polls also show a breakdown in a general belief of progress. The mood in the country is bleak because we see so much loss of life first of all in Orlando and then the murder of Joe Cox MP as she went about her work during this week there just seems to be a lot of suffering at this time in so many places in the world. In our Gospel reading for this weekend we hear Jesus asking ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And the apostles answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ He then asked his disciples the same question as he wanted to know who they thought he was and so he asked them who do you say that I am? It was Peter who spoke up and said ‘The Christ of God’. But, given the popular overtones of this title within a tradition which spoke of triumph rather than suffering, Jesus insists that he has to suffer for his identity. It’s not that Jesus plans it; rather, he knows that suffering is inevitable if he is to face the future honestly. And he states further that those who become his followers will have to suffer for their identity like their master.
The fact that the disciples still followed Jesus is a measure of the continuing impact that Jesus has on them. The disciples are not following someone who is programmed for failure: they are not idiots. They follow someone they sense is not kidding them; someone who faces real situations that are part and parcel of life with enormous courage and commitment. Every commitment to love means a willingness to suffer for a while. And it’s that kind of commitment that Jesus still expects of all who follow him. Over so many years we have seen so many people perhaps family members friends or other people leaving or at least not practising the faith. The questions for us who are following Jesus today are who do we say Jesus is and how do we make the Jesus of the Gospels alive in the lives of those around us. Many people who have left the faith blame this priest or that scandal within the Church for leaving but when hardy comes to hardy the Church must face up to its own shortcomings and that includes you and me as members of the church.
In the face of the dark anxiety of these and other days, more people pray and attend weekly worship. While polls show faith in the secular world might be down, they also record and remind us that faith in God rising. The polls show that people need to place their faith in something. When the world lets them down, they return to God. I think it is the same for all of us there have been many occasions that I have felt down but I have been lifted up by the Faith that I have. All of us are asked to take up our crosses and follow Jesus as best we can and remember that none of us will be able to avoid the many crosses that will come our way. Yes, it might be tough to pick up the cross and follow Jesus day by day. But, in doing so, we who follow grow closer to him because we begin to understand his walk to suffering and death. We realize that he understands our troubles. We begin to realize we have a friend and fellow traveler in the Lord who does not let us down whether we are near the Church or even far away.