A question we all must answer…
MARK 8:27–35, By Jacqui-Theresa Leiba
Greek Bishop and Church Father St Irenaeus noted, “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.”
This Sunday’s gospel is an invitation to begin to examine St Irenaeus’ words and the ways in which the Christian discovers his or her identity as being formed by living the values of the gospel, rooted, and grounded in a Christ-centred life.
The disciples tell Jesus that people were guessing His identity. Some said John the Baptist or Elijah, who were both dead; others, that He was one of the prophets. The people seemed confused about Jesus’ identity.
Jesus then poses the same question to the disciples and to us today, probing the mind and heart of every baptised Christian. “But you,” he asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:29). We must ponder this question in the heart and give our own response with conviction or confusion, like Peter or the crowd.
Peter answers for the disciples, “You are the Christ” (Mk 8:29). Jesus strictly orders His disciples not to tell anyone about Him. All will be revealed in due time. He is secure in His identity as Son of God, Son of Man, and the Christ, as revealed by Peter. This is a valuable lesson.
Above all else, like Jesus, the Christian’s main concern is to be about fulfilling the Father’s will and gaining God’s approval.
At times, the Good News may feel like bad news, as it certainly did for Peter. Jesus, in His teaching, often engages in paradoxical and metaphorical thinking and the logical mind often staggers from the impact. It makes no sense.
The Christian must be open to engaging the paradoxical and metaphorical mind, otherwise little understanding and growth will occur. One must become poor to be rich. The meek shall inherit the earth. Death is the path to new life. Paradoxically, to lose one’s life for Christ and the sake of the gospel by keeping one’s temporal eyes fixed on our eternal destiny in Christ, is to wake up to being, a human being fully alive.
Life in Christ is a descent before it is an ascent to walk the road to freedom as children of God.
Jesus’ teaching to the disciples about facing His cross and ultimate demise, greatly disturbed Peter and his emotional reaction reveals that Peter could not wrap his heart or mind around what Jesus said. He was unable to grasp the full mystery of Jesus’ whole-hearted intent to align His will with the Father’s will.
This news of Jesus’ suffering and demise caused protest from Peter. Today, it is seldom different as Jesus’ teachings are often rejected by the world and do still disturb the minds of many.
Peter sensed, with a certain confidence, Jesus’ eternal identity as the Christ, but he was yet to understand the full consequences of what that meant for Jesus and His followers.
Peter’s idea about Jesus’ role and responsibility was all about thinking in a human way mostly fraught with an “emotional-centered program for happiness” (Fr Thomas Keating).
Christians take heed! Roles and responsibilities have ultimate importance only in light of God’s will and divine plan.
Jesus calls Peter “Satan”, which means “adversary”. He rebukes Peter for his worldly human thinking in opposition to God’s plan.
In that moment, Peter was being an adversary of God and standing in the way of God’s divine plan. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s” (Mk 8:33).
In our reflection, we may want to consider persons or situations that may be our adversary in living the gospel life, or perhaps we may be our own adversary or are living as an adversary of the Lord.
Lord Jesus, help me to renounce my own way and take up my cross daily; knowing that being fully alive is found in loving You above all else and my neighbour as myself. Amen.
Jacqui-Theresa Leiba is actively involved at St Patrick’s RC Church, Newtown. She facilitates contemplative prayer and retreats at the parish and at the Foundation for Human Development in Cascade.