24th Week in Ordinary Time
Sunday, September 16, 2018
First reading: Is. 50:5-9
The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let that man confront me. See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?
Second reading: Jas. 2:14-18
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
Gospel: Mk. 8:27-35
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “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 and that of the gospel will save it.”
In other words Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD (Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City)
Let us take another look at our Gospel for today and ask ourselves if we feel something is missing. Do I hear someone ask where are the phrases “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah… You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church, etc?” (Many of you may almost know the rest of it by heart.) Today there is nothing about that, just the direct answer of Peter, “You are the Messiah,” followed by the warning of Jesus not to tell anyone about him. This means that the apostles were to say nothing about Jesus being the Messiah. Nevertheless, I’m sure they could and did say a lot about Jesus to others. Probably they invited many to come and listen to him.
The point here is that this year it is the Gospel according to Mark that is being proclaimed to us, not Matthew’s. In Matthew, the writer is giving us important teachings about the leadership in the Church, especially the role of Peter. Mark, however, is focusing on the correct understanding of the meaning of Messiah, especially as the Church was undergoing a severe prosecution in Rome when he was writing his gospel. That is why he emphasizes the warning of Jesus, “not to tell anyone about him.” Yes indeed, Jesus is the Messiah but Peter still needed a deeper understanding of what that meant so that he would know what he was committing himself to. He probably had in mind the great king David as his model, a military leader who would free the people from Roman oppression and restore the kingdom of Israel. Far from his mind was the image of the Suffering Servant given to us by the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading.
This is what Jesus had in mind as he continued his teaching and it explains why his rebuke to Peter was so severe. Liberating Israel was a legitimate aspiration from the political point of view but Jesus came to proclaim something much more than that, something totally new, a different kind of kingdom. He came to proclaim salvation for all God’s children, oppressed and oppressor alike. It is a message that transcends all borders and is intended for Jew and Gentile alike. No walls to keep out foreigners here, the refugees and immigrants are always welcome. This is a message for all ages to be proclaimed over and over again.
Already during the lifetime of Jesus the implications of this vision of eternal salvation were too threatening to the human structures of control and oppression that his hearers were familiar with. And so he was rejected, just as he had told his disciples. But through the Cross and Resurrection the vision lives on, Jesus is with us still, just as he promised us. If we wish to follow him in living and proclaiming the saving message of the ultimate triumph of good over evil we will also have to go the way of the Cross. This can mean opposition, rejection, misunderstandings, in some cases, even death. We may “lose our life” in the eyes of the world but in Jesus we will save it. In the end Peter learned his lesson very well. He made his commitment and staked his life on the fidelity of Jesus. He “saved his life” even as he “lost it.” Are we ready to do the same?
Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word