Sunday Reflection - 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Posted: Fri, 10 Sep 2021 10:16
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy reflects on the Gospel for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, looking at the difficulty that Peter faced when answering Jesus.
In our reading from Mark's Gospel today, Jesus asks the serious question: 'who do people say that I am?' (Mk 8:27). The disciples do not want to seem to answer this, opting for the popular ploy of politicians they tell Jesus that 'people are saying!' In this way they do not have to commit, but Peter has no problem when he affirms confidently, 'You are the Messiah' (Mk 8:29). Jesus then goes on to describe what being a Messiah actually entails—Peter finds this unacceptable, rather like the disciples we met a couple of weeks ago. Like them, Peter wants an uncontroversial Messiah who lives a life of total glory. In Jerusalem means pain, suffering and death, then Peter wants to keep Jesus away.
I suspect a lot of us can identify with Peter today: we want the very best for our families and friends. When he hears of Jesus speaking of the pain and suffering that going to Jerusalem will bring, Peter, as a friend, urges him not to go forward-he wanted the best for his friend. Peter's simple recognition was a clear statement of who Jesus was; the Messiah!
Jesus sees him today not as the ROCK; rather Peter is seen as SATAN, the evil one—he goes from hero to zero in such a short time! It would be much easier for Jesus not to travel to Jerusalem but following Jesus is not about following the 'easy' way. Peter is seen as a 'satani': those ankle breakers or stumbling blocks that are seen, often at the edge of a desert. Jesus wants to see Peter behind him; Peter is the stumbling block to the progress that Jesus needs to make, even though it will cause pain, hurt, suffering and death. However, that journey to Calvary, strongly, draws us deeper in the bubble of God's love. The martyr of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, St Maximilian Kolbe reminds us that the 'the cross in the school of love'
Peter has to learn the hard way that following Jesus involves taking up the cross that life offers you. All of us will have to take up crosses we would rather ignore: the illness of a child, the passing of a loved one, the betrayal of someone you trust, being ignored, being pushed 'under the bus'... the list can go on. Indeed, these past eighteen months have been a hard cross for so many of us to endure; we have all been in this together, sharing the problems of lockdown and learning to adapt in the very new normal that we are still growing slowly into.
However, even in the cross and difficulty of a global pandemic, we have learnt so much: we have grown closer and have built a stronger community. The CROSS, embraced fully, can help each of us to discover our hidden reservoirs of strength and talent. We are called this week not to be stumbling blocks to others: through our word and actions we can cause others to fall. Today is the challenge to give up your selfishness and see a bigger picture.
Last year I received an amazing gift of a cross from very special friends - it sits on my desk as a constant reminder of what the cross really means. Instead of the usual figure of the broken and beaten Jesus, there are three heart symbols at the centre. I like to see it as the ultimate love of the Trinity in the action of Jesus's sacrifice on the cross. Today Jesus reminds Peter, his Apostles and the whole Church that we need to move forward in that spirit of an unconditional love that is all-embracing. As you gaze of the cross today, just realise how loved and appreciated you are. In this coming week, can you share that love and avoid being a 'satani' or stumbling block to others? In a spirit of real reconciliation, we are invited into this circle of love that Calvary embraces. Thomas Merton, the great American Trappist invites to share the fullness of that love over this coming week, remembering that each of us are made in the image and likeness of God (see Gen 1:27):
The beginning of love is to let those we love, be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB
Image: Courtesy of the Combonis