September 12, 2009


24th Sunday - B
Mk 8:27-35

A Turning Point

This week's Gospel reading gives a turning point in the Gospel of Mark. Up to now, Jesus has shown his identity in his miraculous action and his powerful words. But not everybody recognizes him. We also know from previous passages in Mark, there are still people who even challenge Jesus' teaching authority as a rabbi. As we learn in the disciples' responses to Jesus' question, for most people, Jesus is just "one of the figures expected to usher in the days of the Messiah." [1]

The disciples know what people are saying about Jesus. But, it is not enough for the disciples to know what others think of Jesus. Jesus asks them for their own faith, "But, who do you say that I am?" (8:29). Here is the turning point in the disciples' following and understanding of Jesus.

There has to be a similar turning point in every Christian's journey of faith. We all learn the faith from somebody else. For most of us, it was first our parents and grandparents who pass on to us the faith. We also learn it from our religious educators, clergy, other Church ministers, and friends. But at one point or another, we all must answer that same question, "But who do you say that I am?" Who is Jesus for me, not somebody else?

Yet, as we learn from the hard lesson that Peter learns, it is not enough to know Jesus according to our own idea or concept. Peter gives the right answer. Nevertheless, he cannot come to understand or accept what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah in God's plan. Peter even goes as far as "rebuking" Jesus. He has a hard time accepting a Messiah who will suffer, be rejected, and die.

At that point, Jesus puts Peter where he belongs, "Get behind me."

Then Jesus gives us the ultimate turning point in any disciple's journey of faith. "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (8:34).

It is not enough to know Jesus according to our ideas and plans. We must come to know and follow him as the Messiah, who out of obedience to the Father and out of love for us, gives up his life so that we might live.

[1] Francis J. Moloney, SDB. This is the Gospel of the Lord, Year B. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul, 1993; p. 182.

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