Desmond Doss is the Medal of Honor awardee whose life story is told in the movie Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield. Doss, a conscientious objector, served in World War II as a combat medic. He heroically returned to the battlefield multiple times to save dozens of wounded soldiers. What motivates someone to so willing rush into harm's way? This week's Gospel answers this question.
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct." Matthew 16:21-27
Jesus' rebuke of Peter who wants to protect Jesus from persecution seems incredibly harsh. "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." Peter might have thought, "I'm only looking out for you Lord." Jesus made the predictions of His suffering and death knowing His Father's greater purpose. His disciples didn't know, so the thought of Him willingly accepting His persecution and death surely confounded them.
I ask the question again. What motivates someone to willingly choose to enter harm's way? Desmond Doss had a clear sense of his purpose, informed by his faith. Before he ever entered into battle Doss had consciously made a number of decisions that influenced his actions on and off the battlefield. Simply put, Desmond Doss was willing to die for his fellow man because he was motivated by a greater purpose. Are you?
Think through the ramifications of what Jesus is saying here. If you are a disciple of Christ you are expected to give your life for Him. It may not be in as dramatic fashion as Jesus or Peter, or even Desmond Doss, but we must be willing just the same. Prepare yourself as a soldier for Christ, poised to sprint out onto the battlefield of life. Now imagine receiving your very own medal of honor from Jesus who says, "He will repay all according to His conduct."