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Scott Peck was an American psychiatrist probably better known for his 1978 bestselling book “The Road Less Travelled.” In it he wrote that “problems are the cutting edge between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom.”
The more you think about that quote the more profound it becomes. In the midst of what we might consider our boring, mundane everyday lives we are continually confronted by problems which one way or the other, we need to face. For example, imagine you are a senior student at one of our local colleges. You are eagerly looking forward to the freedom and exciting opportunities and experiences that lie just beyond your grasp. One of your fellow students, a person that your classmates isolate and for whatever reason, pick on, is falsely accused of stealing $100 from a teacher’s wallet. However you know that he was not the thief. Instead, you witnessed your friend take the money. Now, is loyalty or truth more important? What do you do? In one sense it would be easier to do nothing. After all, there is nothing to associate you with the crime. You did not take the money. You can rationalize and justify doing nothing. Bad luck for the other student who got blamed but you could stay free and stay clear.
Once again, “problems are the cutting edge between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom.”
Sometimes what makes a problem tough is not that we don’t know what to do – but rather we know all too well what we should do. Sure, to do nothing is easier – but by taking that easy way out it has devastating consequences for others.
Grappling with problems and having the courage to face challenges and the consequences of making decisions provides a perfect backdrop to this weekend’s gospel. If you listen carefully to the Gospel you will hear Peter who simply wants to protect Jesus from the suffering that he predicted. Using harsh words Jesus strongly rebukes Peter for trying to diminish or take a short cut around the cross because it is too difficult. What Peter is yet to understand is that discipleship is not simply the avoidance of evil. There are problems to be confronted and choices to be made. This means, in simple words, that discipleship is also the proactive engagement that actively takes on what is good, seeks out what is right, has the courage to work for justice and does not necessarily run with the crowd because it is safe.
How that young student in the final year of school, with the rest of his life before him, deals with the problem of the stolen $100 is important. At every stage of life there are problems to be confronted and choices to be made. We are reminded today that there are no short cuts around faith and discipleship – indeed, perhaps the crosses of our lives and the problems we confront and the choices we make are the vehicles for bringing the promise of resurrection to the lives of those we share the journey of life with! Take care. Fr Peter Brannelly