David Herbert Lawrence, widely regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, beautifully conjures this line, “Death is the only pure, beautiful conclusion of a great passion.”
We see the concrete reality of this on how the first Pope of the Catholic Church breathed his last: he was crucified upside-down.
But that’s already how the life of Peter ended. Equally interesting is his reason of how he managed to offer his life for the sake of following Jesus.
In our Gospel passage today (Luke 9:18-22), we heard how St. Peter was able to identify who Jesus really is: the Messiah of God.
Of course, the Holy Spirit, must have revealed this truth to Peter. But we could also say that Peter also invested his time to know Jesus a lot deeper. His friendship with Jesus made him capable of identifying how Jesus is different from his other friends.
To speak of friendship with Jesus can sound so cozy and warm and harmless, as if God doesn’t do anything but to give all of us a group hug.
However, Paul Wadell, one of my favorite authors, warns us that it is dangerous to be a friend of God. This is so, because friends have expectations of each other and because every friendship changes us.
There may be grace and glory in being a friend of God, but there is also clearly a cost. Peter paid the price of his friendship with Jesus by his life.
Today, we commemorate St. Padre Pio. He was born in 1887, a year before Don Bosco had to leave for heaven. Padre Pio, too, had to pay a dear price because of his friendship with Jesus. When he was still alive, he had to bear the wounds of Jesus on his hands. Technically called stigmata, St Francis of Assiss and other saints also endured these wounds.
But more than the pain inflicted by his stigmata, it is the cruelty and harassment he received from unbelievers caused him to suffer more.
No less than the Church authorities forbade him to celebrate Mass publicly since he had started to attract the attention of many.
But when they found out that all his claims were truthful, he was given the signal to return to the public ministry.
We, too, are called to nurture our friendship with Jesus. Isn’t it one element of our Salesian spirituality Friendship with Jesus? But, let me remind you, there is a price we have to pay.
Perhaps, it’s far from being crucified upside-down, nor be given a gift of stigmata, but we are expected to behave like our friend Jesus behaves: patient with one another, kind to others, merciful, polite, gentlemanly, and compassionate.
Let the oft quoted reminder of Don Bosco “Do your ordinary duties, extraordinarily well” become our life principle.
May this Eucharistic celebration remind us that Jesus Himself paid such a costly price so that He could keep us beside Him. So that we could enjoy His friendship.
May our thoughts, words and deeds today show that we value our friendship with Jesus.