Apostle: 1 Cor 10:12-22
Therefore, my beloved, shun the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the practice of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
Gospel: Matthew 16:20-24
In those days, Jesus strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me".
Do you realize that, as Christians, we are called to suffer? If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Yes, suffering is itself a sacrifice, and, like all sacrifices, it is something we can offer up to God. But what do we learn from today's scripture about suffering?
1) The very first thing to remember is this: With every hurt, every time we suffer, there is the temptation to give up. But, St. Paul tells us, God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. God will never give you a temptation beyond what you can bear. And, that means that He will never give you suffering that you cannot bear.
Do you remember when Paul and Silas were thrown into jail in Philippi? They were beaten, yet, at midnight, they were singing and praising God. They bore their suffering. Jesus bore his suffering. And as Paul is an imitator of Christ, we are to be imitators of him; we, too, can bear our suffering.
2) Not only will we be tempted because of our own comfort to give up, to avoid suffering, those closest to us will tempt us to give up. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” How did Jesus respond? Just as we must. But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
3) God brings good from our suffering. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
Ponder that for a moment.
Our suffering in the flesh completes what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of the church. What is lacking in his afflictions? In and of itself, there can be nothing lacking in Christ's afflictions.
So, what does Paul mean?
Think of the Sun. If you take a magnifying glass and use it to focus sunlight on a piece of paper, the paper catches fire. Now, the sun is not any stronger because of magnifying glass, but its power is more focused. It's that way with our suffering. When we offer up our suffering as a sacrifice, the power of Christ's affliction is focused on the needs that WE would address.
God entrusts us with that power.
My friends, don't bemoan the fact that you must suffer. Rejoice in it, because, through it, God has given you, a Royal Priest (1 Pet 2:9; Ex. 19:6), the authority to focus His grace in the lives of others.