Vatican City, 13 September 2015 (VIS) – The path of those who follow Jesus does not lead to glory but is instead destined for true freedom, explained the Pope to the thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square this morning to pray the Angelus.
Francis commented on today's Gospel reading in which Jesus, on the path to Caesarea Philippi, asks His disciples what the people said about Him, as some of them considered Him to have been sent by God, but did not yet recognise Him as the Messiah. The apostles answered that some considered Him as the living image of John the Baptist, others Elijah or one of the great prophets. Jesus then asked His disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”.
“Here is the most important question, that Jesus addresses to those who followed him, to confirm their faith. Peter answers on behalf of all of them, without hesitation, 'You are the Christ'. Jesus is moved by Peter's faith and recognises that it is the 'fruit … of the special grace of God the Father'. And so he openly reveals to the disciples what awaits him in Jerusalem: that is, that 'the Son of Man must suffer many things … and be killed, and after three days rise again'. But upon hearing this Peter, who has just proclaimed his faith in Jesus as the Messiah, is horrified. He takes the Master aside and rebukes him. Jesus reacts with great severity, saying 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man'”.
“Jesus realises that in Peter, as in the other disciples – and in each one of us! - the grace of God is opposed by the temptation of the Evil one, that would divert us from God's will. By announcing that He must suffer and be put to death to then rise again, Jesus wishes to show to those who follow Him that He is a humble servant. And the Servant obeys His Father's Word and will, unto the complete sacrifice of His own life. Therefore, turning to the crowd around Him, He declares that he who wishes to be His disciple must accept being a servant, as He has made Himself a servant, and warns, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me'”.
“Following Jesus means bearing one's own cross – we all have one – to accompany Him on the way, a rough path that is not that of success or fleeting glory, but which leads to true freedom, which liberates us from selfishness and sin. It means clearly refusing that worldly mentality that places the self and one's own interests at the centre of existence. … Jesus instead invites us to give our life for Him, for the Gospel, so as to receive it again renewed, fulfilled and authentic. We are certain, thanks to Jesus, that this path leads ultimately to resurrection, to full and definitive life with God. The decision to follow our Master and Lord Who made Himself the Servant to all demands that we walk behind Him and listen carefully to His Word – reading every day a passage from the Gospel, and in the Sacraments”.
Finally he addressed the young people in the Square: “I ask you: have you felt the wish to follow Jesus more closely? Think, pray, and let the Lord speak to you”.