Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He scolded them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

Today’s gospel is marked by great complexity as it moves rapidly through several related incidents:
  1. Jesus asks about his reputation;
  2. Jesus' more pointed, personal question, and 
  3. Peter’s response;
  4. Followed by his prediction of suffering, death and resurrection;
  5. And finally, his teaching on discipleship.

All five points are related but nonetheless mysterious and demanding. How does our response as disciples relate to what the crowds say of Jesus? Are we among the crowd or set apart from them? 

How does a conversation that began with "What do the crowds say about?" end up with, "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it?" With an ominous prediction along the way: "The Son of Man must suffer greatly...."

Jesus off-hand question plunges into the heart of darkness, taking us with him. His prophecy recalls the ominous utterance of an ancient prophet, Zechariah, which we heard in today’s first reading:
and they shall look on him whom they have pierced,
and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son,
and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn.

Clearly, this suffering is necessary. I sometimes ask the Veterans a riddle: Jesus was born in Bethlehem; baptized in the Jordan River, healed many people, celebrated the last supper and was raised on Easter. What did I skip?
If you don’t know the crucifixion you don’t know Jesus. My point is, “If your loved ones don’t know about your suffering, they don’t know you.” In the VA hospital Veterans may talk about PTSD, moral injury and the traumas they have suffered.

As he approaches Calvary, Jesus wants to be known by his disciples. He insists on that, even to point of predicting what has yet to happen. When Peter suggests he should not have to suffer – indeed, why should anyone have to suffer? – Jesus rebukes him sternly. “Get behind me, Satan!”
Our communion necessarily includes our stories of misery and disappointment, either as memories or as present crises. Christians do not share only our best images and happiest moments. We also confess our failings, fears and sins. We "die" to our guilt and shame by confessing them to each other, by allowing the community to "bear one another's burdens."

That sharing may begin with a traditional, sacramental confession but it often needs to go beyond that to trusted friends and loved ones. Alcoholics Anonymous has proven how redemptive and healing transparency can be. This is how we take up our crosses each day and follow in his steps. 

No one should have to sing, "Nobody knows the trouble I see." 

1 comment:

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.