Yesterday, I received some very sad news about the death of a child, the grandson of a teacher who taught school in my first parish after ordination. This boy, obviously young, died of a heart attack!!! Yes, a heart attack. Unheard of... unbelievable... but the reality. Who can even begin to imagine the pain of parents and grandparents.
When you enter any relationship, particularly marriage or friendship, you have no idea where this relationship will take you. The longer the relationship, the more life experiences, and the more you will encounter suffering in one form or another. It’s easy to be in any relationship when times are great and enriching, but life will intervene in ways one would not choose or desire. These difficult life experiences are the part of relationships that give birth to true commitment.
Jesús tells Peter that he will eventually be led where he would rather not go in his old age. In hearing these prophetic words, Peter accepts that his life and relation with Jesus will involve suffering and even rejection. This is the price he is willing to accept to be in relationship with Christ. Every relationship will inevitably involve heartache and suffering. Who would choose these difficult experiences? But they happen and we allow ourselves to be led through suffering because we love and are committed. A true friend is ALWAYS there, no matter what.
Relationships can never grow when isolated from life and it’s problems; isolation causes suffocation. Despite all his denials , Peter “rose” to the occasion and three times declared his love for Jesus. His denials lost their power to the power of love, which grounded his leadership in the early, fledgling Christian community.
Love must precede and ground institutional leadership.
The love of friend and spouse grounds each relationship, fortifying it as it faces the certain struggles of life. A grandmother is going where she did not choose to go and would never choose to go. But there she is, facing the death of a beloved child, choosing the way of love, the way of presence and support to grieving parents: a mother grieves with her son as he grieves, with his wife, for his own son.
All the relationships involved in this experience will continue and their suffering will give birth to new life and love. Easter always has the last word.