|Annibale Carracci's "Domine, Quo Vadis" and thanks, Wiki|
If you go to Rome, to the Catacombs of St. Callistus (one must see all the catacombs which are open), one is shown the supposed footprints of Christ in stone where St. Peter had his vision of Christ. This is a copy, as the "original" is in the church of Saint Sebastian outside the walls
St. Peter was leaving Rome. He was on the road when Christ appeared to him. Peter asked, "Where are you going, Lord?" Christ replied that He was going to Rome to be crucified again.
This story is interesting to me for two reasons. One, Peter was fleeing the persecutions of Nero-a good idea to get away! One does not have to put one's self in the position to be martyred.
But, second, Christ has another plan. His Will was that Peter would die a martyr in Rome. Peter had to face martyrdom as this was part of his own salvation. We do not understand the mystery of evil-why God allowed Peter to be martyred. We can speculate, as Peter was not at the foot of the Cross, and the only apostle not martyred, John, experienced Christ's passion and death, joining himself with Christ.
But, it was God's Will for Peter that he would return to Rome.
Have you ever been avoiding pain and suffering only to discover that the inevitability of such were part of God's Will for you?
All we can do in the face of anxiety, suffering, pain, illnesses, etc., is to ask, "Where are you going, Lord?"
And, then, when He tells us, we must follow. That is all we can do.
I am not the most meek and humble of the followers of Christ. When I got cancer, I sat in a basilica and complained to God, in the Autumn of 2009, that He did not experience what I was experiencing. He drew my eyes up to the huge cross in front of the sanctuary. I was stunned. The artist had placed the scar of the piercing of His side exactly where my scar was. I was humbled. Christ has experienced even female pain and suffering and grief. Christ had joined me in my suffering. He had gone before me in all my trials.
I was staring at it-the physical reality of His passion. He bears those scars in heaven and if you look closely at the painting, you will see the marks. His Glorified Body is a testimony for me and for you.
Peter must have thought of Christ's passion and death as he walked back to Rome, slowly, maybe. It was now clear, he knew, that he would be martyred. But, Peter also knew that Someone had gone before Him in suffering and pain and loss.
When we allow God's plan for our life to unfold, we become one with Him. Is there anything else worth while? Peter went back to Rome because he loved the Lord. Love is the answer to all pain and suffering. All.
Sometimes, we do not know where we are going, either literally or metaphorically. But, I believe, no, I know, that Christ has gone before me into all the unknown, in the darkness and in the grief. And, if that is the case, can I not help but follow?
"Quo vadis, Domine?"