No cross, no crown
March 16, 2003

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

We have a natural tendency to find in God the instant solution to all our problems and sufferings as if He is just waiting to be asked to use His power in our behalf. No, pain and suffering -- physical, emotional and spiritual -- are part of our human condition. And this because of the fall of our first parents. For with their fall, sin and its consequences -- suffering and death -- became part of our very existence.

But our condition of sinfulness would not remain for good though its consequences -- suffering and death -- would. For before sending our first parents out of the Garden of Eden, God promised them a Redeemer. At the appointed time, God sent His Son Jesus Christ who fully embraced our human condition except sin, and who by suffering, dying and rising to life again, overcame sin and death in our behalf. True, we will still suffer and die. But if we believe in Jesus and live according to His teachings and examples, we will rise up with Him to eternal life. Thus because of Jesus' passion, death and resurrection, our human condition has become "No cross, no crown."

This becomes clearer if we view the Transfiguration-event (Mk. 9:2-10) in view of what preceded it. It is no accident that Mark starts his account of the Transfiguration with the phrase: "After six days..." What transpired earlier? Two significant events.

First, there was the confession of Peter. When Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do people say that I am?," they were quick to answer: John the Baptizer, Elijah or one of the prophets. But when Jesus asked, "Who do you say that I am?," it was only Peter who dared to answer saying, "You are the Messiah."

Second, there was Jesus' prediction of what awaited Him in Jerusalem: His passion, death and three days later, His resurrection. But on hearing this, Peter rebuked Jesus. For him, a Messiah who would suffer and die was beyond comprehension. Jesus thus had to reprimand him saying, "Get out of my sight Satan! You are not judging by God's standards but by man's."

Thereafter, Jesus taught His disciples--past, present and future -- the Doctrine of the Cross: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." In short, though Jesus promised us eternal life, He never promised that life would be a rose garden. What He did promise us was the cross -- twenty four hours a day, seven days a week -- and that suffering was necessary before eternal glory can be ours. It was from this suffering part that Peter tried to dissuade Jesus, as Satan did when He tempted Jesus. Peter wanted only the crown without the cross.

This brings us to the Transfiguration of Jesus. Seeing Jesus transfigured and conversing with Moses and Elijah, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, Peter excitedly exclaimed, "Teacher, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." For Peter, after such an experience, nothing else mattered. But with that statement, he was in effect saying, "No more cross, only the crown."

But this was not to be. Soon Peter and his companions James and John heard a voice coming from the cloud: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him." In his earlier confession, Peter merely said that Jesus was the Messiah. Now they heard God the Father Himself saying that Jesus the Messiah is His Son! And to Him they must listen. And as Jesus had said earlier, before He would attain His glory, He had first to undergo His passion and death. Though the Transfiguration gave the three a glimpse of what they were to become -- like Him, they, too, would be transfigured -- it also taught them the true nature of Jesus and His mission: Son of God though He was, He had to suffer and die for us before His glorification.

In effect, Jesus was saying to them then and now to us: "It is true that I will suffer and die. But My death is not the end of everything. When I rise again, you will see greater things than when I was transfigured before you. If you follow Me and do as I have taught you, then just as I was glorified after My passion and death, so will you be after your death if you bear your sufferings in My Name."

No question about it, part and parcel of our following of Jesus is the acceptance and living of the Doctrine of the Cross. But this can be made easier if we heed what the Father has told the three apostles at Jesus' Transfiguration: "Listen to him!" If we constantly listen to Jesus and reflect on what He Himself went through -- His passion, death, and thereafter His resurrection -- then when disappointments, pains and sufferings come our way, as they have and will, we can bear them in a spirit of faith, with our own transfiguration in mind.

No cross, no crown -- let this be a constant subject of our reflection during this Season of Lent.