By Father Andrew Kelly
When the Lord gathers the believing community, the rituals begin and end with the words: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Many make the sign of the cross by touching their forehead, heart and both shoulders.
By the sign of the cross, believers are indicating they understand something Peter resisted in Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 16:21-27). Peter rebuked Jesus for even mentioning great suffering and being killed:
“But he (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’”
As believers make the sign of the cross, they are declaring that their heads, hearts and arms are now committed forever to Jesus’ life of absolute self-surrender.
The community promises it will not be a scandal or stumbling block to Jesus’ mission as Peter was. Instead the community’s life will be as John P. Meier describes:
“Discipleship means an affirmation of Jesus which entails a negation of self-centeredness, an immolation of egotism on the cross. As goes the Master, so goes the disciple.” (Matthew: New Testament Message, Volume 3, Liturgical Press, 1980)
(Father Andrew Kelly is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mechanicsville.)