12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 19 June 2016

"You are the Christ"

Scripture Reading – Luke 9:18-24

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

Gospel reading – Courtesy of Universalis Publishing Ltd. – www.universalis.com

REFLECTION

“You are the Christ”

by Fr Raymond McIntyre SDB

On one occasion christ put a question to the Apostles concerning his true identity.The only one that gave the correct answer was St.Peter,but while he spoke the right words his understanding lacked depth.When the crunch came at Calvary Peter turned his back and denied any association with Christ.

Like Peter it is easy to say ‘You are the Christ’ but the real answer depends on our readiness as Christians to follow Him in our daily lives.This involves taking up our cross,embracing suffering and often going against the tide of public opinion.

Suffering and the cross present us with a problem because they go against the grain of life.We all desire ease,comfort and even luxury at times but we find the cross everywhere in life. We don’t have to go searching for the cross – it’s in Parenthood, Unemployment,in the loss of life’s partner, it’s in the death of a child,in the distress of a family conflict, in unexpected illness.While accepting that the cross and suffering are a great mystery,as Christians,we willingly offer up our daily sufferings with those of Christ .By some strange paradox the Lord can take our crosses and turn them to redemptive use.

To be a follower of mine Christ said ‘You must renounce yourself and take up your cross'; but what does to renounce yourself mean? Self-denial is not a popular idea but its practice can enable us to find our true self in order to live happy and fulfilled lives.

In asking us to renounce ourselves Christ was recognising that for weak human nature our first instinct is a vibrant selfishness – getting things for ourselves.To prevent this instinct destroying us Christ challenged the first Disciples and he challenges us,his followers today,to be of service to others and to workfor justice and equality for all.

We deny ourselves and take up our cross daily when we try to lead a good life,when we try to look after our families to the best of our ability. By accepting our humanity with all its limitations and by putting our trust in the Lord’s help we can look forward with confidence to that new life which St. Paul says :
‘NO EYE HAS SEEN AND NO EAR HAS HEARD
WHAT GREAT THINGS GOD HAS PREPARED
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM’

LECTIO DIVINA

by Fr Juan José Bartolomé SDB

Introduction to Lectio Divine

Luke usually presents Jesus at prayer before decisive moments in his ministry.  On this occasion, Jesus asks his disciples about his identity, forcing them to take a position in public.  This sudden interest in public opinion is in sharp contrast with his normal lack of concern about what people think.  His disciples are challenged twice over – once because he is the one who is asking, and secondly because he asks them what they think about him as a person.

The response he receives is partly satisfactory. Now he can show them how he wants to be understood. After Peter’s profession of faith, he tells them that he must die if he is to be the Messiah they say he is.  The disciples did not think that this could happen. They run the risk of imagining the Lord as they would like him to be, or as seems right and reasonable to them. Anyone who wants to be his follower must know that he will not escape unscathed. The cross awaits his followers. The episode foretells the path that Jesus will have to travel and shows very clearly what his disciples must do if they want to be faithful. They will have to share prayer and intimacy with Jesus to really get to know him. They will have to accept the cross, that of Jesus and their own, if they want to be sure of knowing him personally.

Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

Before taking the decision to go to Jerusalem, “when the days drew near for him to be received up” (Lk 9, 51), Jesus devoted his attention to preparing his disciples more intensely (Lk 9, 1-50). The first mission of the twelve had been a success (Lk 9, 1-6). It led to puzzlement on the part of Herod (Lk 9, 7 -9) and to an enormous desire on the part of the crowd to follow Jesus Lk 9, 10). He took advantage of the occasion to nourish them with his word (Lk 9, 11) and with bread that he multiplied miraculously (Lk 9, 12-17). Now, alone with his disciples, Jesus questions them. He wants to know what people are saying about him (Lk 9, 18) and what the disciples think of him (Lk 9, 20). His time in Galilee is coming to an end. This examination of his closest disciples is intended to help him to gauge the results of his mission. The importance Luke attaches to this episode is obvious from the way it begins. Jesus was at prayer in the presence of his disciples when he questioned them. Both Mark and Matthew locate this incident at Caesarea Philippi (Mk 8, 27; Mt 16, 13) but Luke places it in the context of a moment of solitude and prayer.

Luke usually links the decisive moments of Jesus’ ministry with times of prayer (Lk 3, 21; 5, 16; 6, 12; 9,18,28-29; 11,2; 22,41.44-45; 23,46).  It is quite significant that Jesus questions his disciples while he was speaking to God. His questions were not simply a matter of curiosity to know what people thought of him, but an act of piety before God. The examination was reduced to two questions: what did the people think of him (Lk 9, 18) and what did the disciples think?

The order of the questions is not just by chance. The disciples should know what is being said about their master. And what was being said illustrates well the confusion that Jesus’ way of acting had given rise to among the people – great expectations, but uncertainty at the same time. The people saw Jesus as being like some of the well known people from the past and from the present (Lk 9, 19). Only Peter, who spoke on behalf of the others, had something new to proclaim.  He saw Jesus as God saw him, as God’s messiah (Lk 9, 20).

Peter was forbidden to witness to the authentic faith he had just proclaimed. This is surprising, only if we overlook what Jesus said next.

Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah, but he did not know yet what that meant. In the meantime, he must keep quiet about what he believed. If our faith in Jesus is to be genuine, we must accept the plan that God has for him. Anyone who does not think as God does, that the Messiah must suffer, cannot proclaim Jesus as the Messiah (Lk 9, 22).

And that is not all! Luke notes that the last warning given by Jesus was addressed not only to the disciples but to all who were listening (Lk 9, 23-24). And now, for the first time, he makes following him a free choice (If any man would come after me…) because the conditions are almost impossible (Let him deny himself and take up his cross).

The cross, which neither God’s Messiah, nor his followers, are to be spared, is not freely chosen: is it the guarantee that the Master and his disciples belong to God.

Meditate: apply what the text says to life

The disciples were surely the first to be surprised by the double question put by Jesus. They had been with him on his travels all through Galilee, seeing the miracles he worked, listening to his preaching, sharing times of work and times of rest. They must have known him well. They had spent so much time with him, and had got to know him so well, that surely they must have formed an idea of who he was and what his plans were.  It was not for nothing that they followed him everywhere and had left everything they had for his sake. They were the people who were interested in Jesus, who frequently used to ask him about his ideas and his teaching. They never thought that one day Jesus would be interested in what others thought of him, nor indeed that he would want to know what they thought of him. It is interesting that Jesus asked the disciples what the people thought of him. They had been with him everywhere. He had as much chance as they had to know what the people thought!

Jesus must have had some reason for asking this question. The disciples should be interested in what the people thought of their Master. As Christians, we cannot go through life knowing well who Jesus is, and not caring what others think about him. Having a personal interest in Jesus, and knowing that he is the one sent by God, should lead us to ask ourselves if others share the knowledge and the love we have for him. A follower who is enthusiastic about his master is the best propagandist. A good disciple wants the whole world to become disciples.

Maybe our lack of interest in knowing whether others share our ideas about Jesus and our commitment to him, is the result of how little we know him and how little we appreciate him. If we have not formed an opinion of Jesus, then obviously we will not be interested in what others think of him. If we do not really love him, we will not suffer on account of the indifference towards him that surrounds us. We first need to be interested ourselves, if we are to arouse interest in others.

If we want to feel that we are disciples of Jesus today, we ought to pay heed to his question. We should remember that Jesus did not ask the crowd what they thought of him. He asked the disciples who were closest to him. In doing so, he gave them a masterly lesson, which is still relevant for us today. To be interested in him and have no interest in what others think of him, is just not worthy of a disciple. If we are interested in what others think and say of him, then we ourselves will continue to be interested in him, in his person and in his teaching. The indifference of his disciples is the reason why the Master is reduced to silence in today’s world. If we challenge the way of life of our contemporaries, not just by our words, but by the way we live, and cause them to ask questions about Jesus Christ who is the reason why we live the way we do, then we will be the kind of disciples Jesus wants to have at his side.

However, it is not enough to know what the people think. The disciples of Jesus had to reply personally to the question Jesus asked. One day, sooner or later, we will have to answer the question: “Who do you say that I am?  Who am I for you?” Maybe we have already done so, and certainly we will have to do so again. As in the case of Peter, it is not the time we spend with Jesus, but the answer we give to this question, which will prove our claim to be authentic disciples of Jesus. All Christians who are called by Jesus must tell themselves, and tell the world – and tell Jesus – who Christ Jesus is for them, how much his love means to them, and how much they love him. Until we have answered this very personal and very demanding question, we cannot be confirmed as disciples of Jesus.

A question of this kind is not so much a test as a great opportunity. It lets the disciple see that the Master is thinking about him and taking him seriously. When God asks for our opinion, it is a sign that God is interested in us. If God is concerned about our opinion and our personal stance, we should be happy that we mean something to him.

The people to whom the question is put, who know that God wants them to take a stance in regard to Jesus, and who call themselves disciples, are the only people who know that God is interested in their opinion.

When we proclaim to the world that we are Christians, we are telling ourselves and others who Christ Jesus is for us. It is a way of knowing that God is interested in us and that he has not forgotten us. It is no mere coincidence that the more reluctant we are to give public testimony of our faith in Jesus, the more we feel abandoned by him. When we declare publicly that we belong to Jesus, we will know then that God is on our side. We can be sure of our faith in God if we remain firm in our option for Jesus.

When Jesus shows an interest in what we think, it is a sign that he is interested in us. The present day disciple, who knows that he should give witness to Jesus, will never feel abandoned by God. If he is interested in our opinion, he is interested in us. This should make it less difficult for us to declare publicly our faith in Jesus. What he asked of the disciples who were with him, was to declare publicly who they thought he was, and what they thought of him.

Only those disciples who are able to give a reason for their faith, and who can tell when they are being questioned by the Lord, and know how to respond to his question, will know that they are important to him. They will also know that it is necessary for the Lord to die on the cross.

Those who are able to reply personally are the disciples who have had the great personal secret revealed to them, namely that death on the cross is the fate that awaits Jesus and those who follow him.

This is the testimony the disciples must give. It is not enough to know who Jesus is, or to know what he has done for us. We must also follow him, walking the same path and carrying the same burden. Losing our life for him means gaining it forever.

It is not enough then, to express an opinion about Jesus, however personal that opinion may be, or however publicly we declare it. If we are not prepared to give our life for him, our words mean nothing.

When Jesus wants to know what we think about him, he is revealing to us how much he is interested in us. Jesus continues to ask his disciples to state publicly before others what they think of him.  And when we do so, then we, like Peter, will know  that it is not just because Jesus is worried about what people think of him, but because he wants to give his life for us. If we are not willing to bear witness to Jesus, he will not declare himself for us. We risk losing so much for so little! The God who asks us to bear witness on his behalf, has given his life for us. This was his witness on our behalf. This is how he has shown his love for us.

PRAYER

Lord God,
teach us at all times to fear and love your holy name,
for you never withdraw your guiding hand
from those you establish in your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

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