“WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”
Reflection on the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B (September 16 )
(First Reading: Isaiah 50, 5-9; Ps 114: 1-6, 8-9; Second Reading: James 2: 14-18; Gospel: Mark 8, 27-35)
The twenty fourth Sunday of ordinary time suggests to us the theme of the Suffering Messiah. The gospel of Mark puts at the central stage Jesus as the messiah, while it clears away all the misleading ideas about him. This Gospel is placed at the center of the Gospel of Mark when the fame of Jesus is at the peak and is the fruit of the miracles he has accomplished: the healing of a Syrophaenician woman’s daughter, the healing of a deaf and dumb man, the feeding the of crowd Mark 8, 1-10 and the healing of the blind man Mark 8, 22-26.
All these events have given people a certain knowledge about Jesus. Jesus therefore makes an inquiry about the people’s understanding of his person among his disciples. “Who do people say that I am?” Jesus asks. In this way the disciples report the rumour about Jesus as John the Baptist or Elijah, or one of the prophets. “ And who do you yourselves say that I am?” Peter declares that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus, according to Mark, warns them not to tell people about that.
In the second part of this Gospel, Jesus explains the real meaning of his messianic mission, which culminates in his suffering. At the same time Jesus explains the real meaning of the word “Satan”. The messiah is a person sent by God to do good, as the second reading reminds us. James stresses the fact that good actions are the proof that a person’s faith is real. Faith is not a mere declaration of intention. It is someone’s convictions expressed through his good deeds in the community. On the contrary, someone who has faith but without any fruit that follows is a deceiver. However, Jesus rebukes Peter not because he does not have faith. He calls the one to whom he will later entrust the church “Satan,” not because he does not believe, but because Peter’s way of thinking does not follow God’s way of thinking. Therefore, “Satan” is everyone who does not follow God’s way of thinking but thinks according to human logic. And in this case Peter refuses to accept one aspect of Jesus’ mission: suffering as a means of salvation. For Jesus, this is part of his messianic mission. It is not the only part as often we hear. As a messiah his mission is to save the world through redemptive actions which will lead him to preach the “Good News” to the poor, heal the sick, reconcile people to God, and confront evil incarnated in people’s hardness of heart and in religious authorities. These later will respond to Jesus’ message and actions with the death penalty. This suffering of Jesus is not casual, but the consequence of his choices and an integral element for whoever would like to follow on his footsteps. Which are the lessons we can gather?
First of all, the knowledge about Jesus is revealed to us by God through other people. Sometimes we may hear about him as a prophet, but that knowledge of him has to grow.
Secondly, as a messiah Jesus has the mission to save the world through good deeds which will bring him great suffering from his detractors. Thirdly, the attitude of Peter reveals the human struggle in order to be a true disciple. Through him we discover how sometimes we get a good inspiration from God which we do not own. At the same time we still have a journey to go in order to live out God’s revelation, which goes beyond our understanding. Finally St James is a reminder of our true faith vocation: good deeds are the true test of a living faith that goes beyond mere intentions. Sometimes these good actions can lead to the suffering Jesus talked about. Let us pray to the Lord, the first one who suffered because he loved us and gave us the key to overcome evil through real love which leads to suffering. May the Virgin Mary teach us to persevere in this journey.