Have you ever run an obstacle course? If you have, you know that you encounter one difficulty after another. Just as you have been able to overcome one obstacle, another is right in front of you.

Often, on an obstacle course, the most difficult parts of the course can appear the easiest. Take, for example, the obstacle of the tires lined up two by two: The runner is expected to run through at a quick speed. We usually get tripped up by our own two feet. Before we have a chance to recover, there is another obstacle facing us, such as the rope ladder or monkey bars.

Our confidence is already shaken. We begin to doubt our abilities and question ourselves. The greatest obstacle on the course is no longer in front of us, but within us.

Life, too, can be an obstacle course where we are running, jumping, climbing and even crawling in the hope of completing the race, while trying to catch our breath. Everything can seem to come at us all at once: health issues, family problems, financial struggles and the loss of loved ones.

Obstacle after obstacle
Each of these burdens on its own is a difficult enough obstacle. What happens when they come one after the other or when they come all at once? We can feel wiped out, with no hope of overcoming these obstacles.

We need hope to sustain us. Jesus was providing this hope to the disciples prior to the obstacles they would face: our Lord's passion and death on the cross. "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," writes Matthew (16:21-22).

The tires of the obstacle course of Jesus' passion prediction were the words "suffer and die."

Peter, who, in last Sunday's Gospel (Mt 16:13-20), had given his profession of faith when Jesus asked, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"), goes from running the course smoothly to tripping over his own feet.

Peter did not hear or e did not understand at the time that the Son of Man would rise on the third day. So, after Jesus offers His passion prediction, Peter takes Jesus aside and says, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall happen to you."

Peter becomes the obstacle getting in Jesus way as he run the race to the finish line, which is Calvary.

In our own way
Often, we become our own greatest obstacle as we run the course. The prophet Jeremiah (Jer 20:7) had a burning in his heart for God's Word, but he wanted to quit, because to proclaim that word was too difficult.

Like Peter after him, Jeremiah questions God's Word: "You duped me, o Lord, and I let myself be duped." He sees only that he cannot succeed. He cannot see that God is sustaining him so he can overcome every obstacle in his way.

God even helps him overcome himself, which proves to be Jeremiah's greatest obstacle. Jeremiah will ultimately offer himself willingly as a sacrifice and accept his suffering knowing suffering is an obstacle which needs to be overcome.

St. Paul say as much in the second reading (Rom 12:1-2): "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice."

As we run the course, we need to keep our Lord before us so we do not get tripped up. As Psalm 63:8 reminds us, we do not run the course alone, nor do we have to traverse the obstacles of life on our own: "You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy."

Whatever obstacle confronts us in life, we remember our help is from our God, who made heaven and earth. God's right hand upholds us.