Reading our Gospel today, one would have to feel sorry for St. Peter. When Jesus poses the question: “Who do you say I am?”…He is no longer asking the apostles to relate to Him the thinking of the people. He now wants to know what their personal opinion is. He seeks a sign from each of them to put into words…their faith… in action. Out of the silence, Peter bravely speaks and says, “You are the Christ”. Everyone might have thought it but Peter leads the way and says it. He believes Jesus is the promised Messiah. Jesus warns them not to reveal this truth about Him just yet.
He then explains all that is going to happen. He will suffer and be rejected, put to death and rise again. Peter, probably still feeling brave after getting the identity of Jesus correct, takes Jesus aside and says this is outrageous and should not be allowed to happen. After all, if we have to climb mountains, we all want the path of least resistance. And, after all, if God would only listen to Peter, the world would be better off. (Kind of sounds like our prayers most of the time…doesn’t it.) Jesus reprimands him (and each of us) in full view of all the apostles and says: “Get behind me Satan”. This must have been a crushing experience for Peter. But Jesus tells the apostles, and us, that His followers must take up their cross and follow Him. There is no way to escape suffering if we are followers of Christ. The world doesn’t want to hear Jesus or His teaching, it wants all the benefits…but…little of the work it takes to make the world the Kingdom of God. Mankind still suffers from the original sin of wanting to be gods…and make the world in our image. (How has that been working for us lately?)
The irony is that people think because you are a follower of Christ you should be protected from the worst of what life has to throw at you. It’s not the case. What we can rely on is the presence of Jesus with us in the midst of what we are going through. And, know in faith, He is the Messiah Who is Integrity, Itself and will not leave us or forget us. (Though, we tend to be more like Peter at times.) Let us thank the Lord for His strength in us.
In his writings, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, has emphasized the importance of resting from labors so that we can routinely renew ourselves in mind, body and spirit. Up until 40 years ago Sunday was truly a day of rest with most businesses and restaurants being shut down for the day. Those that could not would go as far as trading weeks so family and employees could have every other week off from Sunday work. Sadly, that all changed with the advent of 24-hour stores that don’t distinguish one day from the next…with many employees having to work a Sunday Shift. Not only is this preventing people from attending Church to worship God as He commanded, but it’s also robbing them of the time they need for rest and renewal. Now, don’t get me wrong…sometimes there is no other recourse (and I thank Wal-Mart being open 24 hours when I live in Hoven, SD). I do have a problem when the Catholic Christians who live in Aberdeen and Pierre pile in and on Sundays.
At Christian companies, religious principles can (and should) complement business practices. Yet, it is interesting how our modern American society is beginning to treat the corporations that voluntarily respect the weekend free tradition as – not only peculiar…but…with suspicion of being social radicals. The business hours sign will read: “closed on Sundays to allow employees time for family and worship.” Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, Mardel Christian Bookstore (not to mention those great Orthodox Jewish deli’s which close on Saturdays, Muslim owned businesses closed on Fridays) are some examples of corporations hearing and authentically living their faith.
So, this weekend we celebrate Labor Day, a day that used to fill the parks and lakes with people taking a special day off of work. But now it’s become nothing more than an opportunity for businesses to get more money by luring the many people who are off of work into their stores for a sale. What began 133 years ago as a day of reward to American Laborers, has become just another day for businesses to bring in the almighty dollar. I hope that you will act to reclaim the Labor Day holiday as it was intended, a day of rest for all in the American workforce. So don’t go anywhere where people have to work! Don’t go to the mall or the movies or to a restaurant or fast food place. Those people should be home resting too! America is blessed with a wonderful labor force…let’s let everyone celebrate with the day (weekend) off! Happy Labor Day!