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TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME B


cappie

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Today we find Jesus with his disciples in a reality check. Near the end of his public ministry, Jesus sought an evaluation of its effectiveness. And he needed his disciples to really understand, what God was doing in and through him, to know where it all led. He asked the disciples what people were saying about him. Who was he in their eyes? He received several answers: John the Baptist, Elijah come back to life again, or maybe a modern prophet.

But what Jesus really wanted to know was who his disciples thought he was. Peter, always quick to act, spoke boldly for them: “You are the Messiah.” Peter had come to understand him as the one who would fulfill God’s promises, the one whom God had sent to save the world.

So far so good, but no doubt, Jesus knew that they didn’t fully understand what he meant. Jesus knew that Peter and the others saw him as the one who would usher in a day of God’s deliverance as a mighty warrior. Returning Israel to independence, free from Roman oppression.

The nature of what Jesus was doing required him to continue to teach, to tell them what it meant for him to be the Messiah. He revealed what would result in the events of Holy Week – his trial and death, before rising again.

Proving that he really didn’t get it, and with his usual impetuousness, Peter responded to this by reprimanding Jesus for having said it. He didn’t like what he heard. It didn’t fit his view of how God would save the world.  So challenging was this rebuke  Jesus called Peter “Satan,” and insisted that his view was one of human thinking and not of God.

Jesus might have expected this. It is probably why he told the disciples not to tell the people about their knowing him as the Messiah. To follow Jesus, to walk the way of God, would require  that they deny their own needs and desires and – speaking words they would only truly grasp after his death – they would have to take up crosses of their own, like the one he would bear on his way to die on the cross of Calvary.  

That is the nature of “who Jesus is.” That is what it means to know him as Saviour. That is what it means to follow him in the way of God. That is how it becomes personal for us. That is how we match what we say we believe with how we follow Jesus in the actions of our lives.

To say that Jesus is our Saviour is to follow him willingly into salvation. Today’s gospel reminds us that to do so is to deny ourselves – to lose self, to let go of the ego, to put ourselves aside for the sake of greater values. It is giving up ourselves for others, in the way of sacrifice and unselfishness. It is giving up particular interests or time or possessions when the purposes of God require it. It is letting the will of God take the place of our own will. It is putting God, not ourselves, at the centre of life. It is, in the words of our Baptism, renouncing all sinful desires that draw us from the love of God.

The figurative cross that we carry following Jesus represents the price we pay for our Christianity, the cost of discipleship, the way we remain connected with God, the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”

Though the answer – the response of losing our selfishness for the sake of God – is highly personal, we do not act upon it alone. We are lucky to be able to carry crosses in the company of a faithful band of followers of Jesus. We stand beside one another as we meet Christ at the Eucharist where we relive Jesus’ sacrificial death. Together we gain sustenance for the difficult challenge Jesus sets before us as we eat and drink with him and of him. We take what he is into our bodies and our spirits as we become renewed and empowered by the spiritual energy that is Christ. So empowered, we go forth into our weekday, workday world as we act out the answer to the question “Who is Jesus?”

 

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