On the outskirts of Rome there is a church by the name of, “Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis.” Which translates to, “Church of,
Lord where are you going?” According to the tradition of this church, (tradition with a little “t”) during the persecutions of the
Emperor Nero, Peter was running away from Rome. And as he was fleeing the city he met Jesus on the way. And so he asks Jesus,
“Lord, where are you going?” To which Jesus responds, “I’m going to Rome to be crucified again.” This shames Peter, so
Peter then gains the courage to continue his ministry and he returns to the city, where eventually he is martyred by being crucified
This little episode is not part of the Canon of Scripture but it is consistent with a scene from John 13:36. In that passage, right
before the Passion, Jesus predicts Peter’s three time denial. Peter, not totally understanding says to him, “Master where are you
going?” Jesus answers, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” This is a prediction of Peter’s
own eventual crucifixion.
Jesus went to the Cross, Peter went to the Cross, and every Christian ever since has gone to the Cross. And it starts at the very
beginning of our Christian life. St Paul writes in our second reading, “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” We were baptized into the Cross, which we are reminded of every time we enter
our church and bless ourselves with holy water.
And in our Gospel we heard, “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.” Whether we
follow Christ or not, we will suffer during our earthly journey. But if we choose to suffer with Christ, our suffering will take on a
meaning and fruitfulness beyond anything we could have imagined.
Jesus today is inviting all of us, once again, to take up our crosses and follow him. He knows that by following him, even though
it’s hard, we will discover the meaning and lasting happiness that we long for. Let’s not ever leave Mass without responding to
this invitation. And we can’t respond to it unless we identify what cross he is asking each one of us to take up, and unite it to
Christ’s own cross. Maybe your cross is an illness, or the illness of a loved one. If so, when Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist,
unite your suffering to his. Say to Him, “Jesus I do this with you.”
Maybe Jesus is asking you to leave behind a sinful habit – dishonesty, lust, greed, or neglect. Habits are always hard to change,
but with God’s grace, all things are possible. Our Lord knows that sin only makes us miserable. If that is the cross he is asking
you to embrace, he will give you the strength you need. When Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist, unite your suffering to His.
Say to Him, “Jesus I do this with you.”
Maybe he is calling you to a new project, or to set out on a new path. Maybe you feel fearful at the prospect, at the uncertainty, at
the risk. Jesus comes to you in Holy Communion. He wants to be your strength, your confidence, your courage. And so
he feeds your soul with his soul, your body with his body, your blood with his blood, and your humanity with his divinity. This is
the love of our God – a love that makes himself present in our lives. It is a love that never leaves us alone, that never leaves us to
carry our cross alone. When Jesus comes to you in the Eucharist, unite your suffering to His, say to Him, “Jesus, I do this with
Our Lord asks us to take up our cross, but only so that, by dying with him, we can also rise with him, and live with him, meaningfully,
here on earth and forever in heaven.
At that church on the outskirts of Rome, Peter asked our Lord, “Where are you going? To which he answered, “I’m going to the
Cross.” Each one of us is asked the same, “Christian, where are you going?” How do we respond? Whether we follow Christ or
not, we will suffer during our earthly journey. But if we choose to suffer with Christ, our suffering will take on a meaning and
fruitfulness beyond anything we can imagine. And to avoid the Cross is to avoid the life that follows.
St. Paul says in our 2nd reading, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in
newness of life.” This fills us with great hope.
Peace and all good,
Fr. Christopher J. Ankley