I recently met a man at a conference who was a joy, brimming with life and humour. He shared with me something of his journey, of his lifelong search for God. He experienced God in his wife, children and grandchildren and in the unexpected encounters that set him alight within – but he said that there was always more.
Every day he found himself facing the Gospel question 'Who do you say I am?'. Every day he had to answer it again because he said, "Every day I'm different and I see things from a different perspective". That is the question each one of us must answer on our faith journey. It is not just an invitation to answer at a cerebral level but a deeper call to intimacy. Does He make sense of my life? Do I have a living personal relationship with Him?
In the Gospels, Peter answers and says, "You are the Christ, the anointed one, the one set apart to give life real meaning". Jesus then reflects on what it means to be a disciple and it is a hard message to take. The son of man was destined to suffer. If you are going to say that Jesus is the Christ and walk in His way then you will discover that real life only comes through suffering. It is a real challenge not to run away from the pain of the world but to enter into it.
To follow Jesus is to take on the pain of others and somehow, in doing so, to transform it into life. We are to do the same with our own pain – not to run away from it but to discover what it means. The hardest times in my life have also been the most life-giving as I have tried to discover what my pain was telling me. Don't try and protect yourself from hurt. Don't put up the barriers against love which always hurts at some point.
The only way to enter into life is to enter it through death. You've got to let yourself be vulnerable. You've got to let yourself be weak. You've got to let yourself be touched and broken. Otherwise Christianity remains poetry or philosophy. That is the example of Jesus. It cost to heal the sick emotionally and physically. It cost Jesus not to give in to His own needs and desires. It cost Him to face His own pain and hurt but he did it so we would know the truth that from each death comes life.
At the beginning of a new year, let us pray for the courage to follow the Lord wherever that leads us and let us pray that in dying we might find life.