One of the most successful musicals of recent years is called “Wicked”. It tells the story of the early life of some of the characters who crop up in the equally famous film “The Wizard of Oz.” One of the cast sings a song which explains his personal philosophy: “Dancing through life”: “Life is painless for the brainless” he tells us. It doesn't do to be serious, it's best to live life on the surface.
Now, we can take ourselves too seriously and that is not a good thing, but “dancing through life” certainly seems to be the basic idea for many of our contemporaries, who endeavour to blot out the harsher realities of our existence with a cocktail of various distractions and other things. In the face of this, this weekend's Gospel has something to say. When Our Lord speaks about the grim realities He is called upon to face, St Peter is appalled. Surely not, he exclaims – nothing so serious, so calamitous could befall the One he had just hailed as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. St Peter had to learn, however, as we must all learn sooner or later, that we cannot go dancing through life.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”. Our Lord is telling us that if we gain the whole world but lose Him, in the end we have gained nothing and that if we lose the whole world but remain faithful to Him, in the end we have lost nothing. St Peter, in seeking to deny Our Lord His Passion is, in effect, seeking to deny the possibility of true happiness. Pope Benedict XVI expresses it thus: “It is only by freeing himself through suffering that man finds himself, that he finds his truth, his joy, his happiness.” No matter how painful our sharing in the Cross might prove to be, no matter how much we are mocked or misunderstood by the world because of our wanting to live to the full our relationship with Our Lord, we should seek to penetrate more and more deeply what the Cross means. Pope Benedict again: “The Cross forces us to look upon the fact that we are loved by God. The Cross becomes a new centre of gravity for the bringing together of what is divided.”
How many times in the course of the day do we make the Sign of the Cross? Each time we make it, we should in some way express the desire to receive the grace to live the Sign of the Cross. We seek to live out each moment the demands that obedient love places on us in our daily lives: all those small acts of choosing the other instead of the self; all those small daily sacrifices of self-will which can be taken up into the one great Sacrifice of the Saviour's Cross. It is not easy, carrying the Cross. Dancing through life seems so much easier. If we choose that path, we may indeed gain temporary benefits and pleasures, but what will we have lost in the long run?
~ Fr. Paul Dobson