24TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (Mc 8:27-35)
– By Fr. Fabien, sx –
Today’s gospel tells us about Jesus who, with his disciples, is heading to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. It is not by chance that on the way Jesus asks his disciples the question about his identity, a kind of survey on what people say He is. This “way” is the metaphor of Jesus’ journey with his disciples, the symbol of discipleship and of the Christian journey. In fact, in the earlier time of Christianity, the community of those who have adhered to faith in Jesus was called the followers of the “Way” (Act 9:2; 19:9).
To the question on who people think Jesus is, many answers are given and all of them are wrong. The same question is asked to his disciples who have been journeying with him so far.
Today, we are asked the same question regarding our Christian journey of discipleship: “Who do you say that I am?” This question raises many other questions such as: who is Jesus for us? Is He perceived by us as a master of moral or philosophy? What image of God do we have? Is it an image we created according to our feelings, our needs and our interests? Is He stopgap for us? How has the Lord revealed Himself in our lives in a determined and precise circumstance and situation?
We are surrounded by many idols and golden calves we adore and worship which can be mistaken for God.
Our answer to the main question must not come from what we have mechanically parroted others but should come from our personal encounter and deep experience of the Lord.
In today’s gospel, it is Peter who answers on behalf of the other eleven disciples. Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, that is, the one who has been anointed by God and sent as His final messenger to the people of Israel. Jesus, with the first announcement of His passion, reveals to us what kind of Christ He is. He is not the political Christ nor the triumphal Messiah, but the Christ who will greatly suffer, who will be rejected and killed. He is the Christ beyond all expectations of his people. Peter is accurate when he says that Jesus is the Messiah, yet Peter still has to understand that the type of image of Messiah Jesus is, is totally different from the image of the Messiah influenced by the political expectations of the time. That is why, Peter who confesses that Jesus is the Christ, is the same Peter who rebukes Jesus because of his wrong image of the suffering Christ.
To this wrong understanding of Peter on the Messiah, Jesus reacted with these words: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Go behind me: Peter and the other disciples are asked to restart and renew their journey, formation and discipleship with Jesus in order to deepen, correct and purify their concept of Christ that they have. They are asked to continue being disciples and learn that sufferings are part of life.
Peter is said to be Satan to mean whoever who is opposed to somebody or something. Peter is Satan because he is opposed to the divine plan, to the design of God. Everyone who is against the design of God becomes Satan. Peter is thinking not as God but as a human being. Peter brings ahead the human project to the detriment of God’s project and will. He prevents the realization and the achievement of God’s design because he wants to divert Jesus from the project of God. The disciples is called not to conform himself to the mentality of the world.
In order to purify the image of Christ in us and the idea of discipleship, Jesus summons the crowd and his disciples and says: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me…” A disciple must be like and resemble his Master. A disciple must take the same journey of the Master and carry his cross. A disciple must offer his life for the sake of the Master, for his brothers and sisters just as Jesus did. For God, life can only be gained when it is lost, when it is given totally to Him. A disciple identifies himself by carrying the cross of his master. If one seeks Jesus without the cross, he will find the cross without Jesus. The cross, being the most precious thing to Jesus, is what He loves to share with those closest and dearest to Him.