Year B: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Mark 8: 27-35
Today’s Gospel contains a great deal of material and is perhaps one of those Gospels where most disciples wish that Jesus had not opened their ears to hear (see Sunday 23). The Gospel also highlights the fact that, even then, the hearing can often only be partial as Peter swings from affirming Jesus as the Christ and almost immediately refusing to hear the words that Jesus spoke about what that was going to mean.
Many contemporary disciples feel the same way when confronted with the death of Jesus - they can accept Jesus as the Risen Lord but struggle with Jesus as Lord of Calvary. It is tempting to close our ears to words or ideas that make us feel uncomfortable and hear only what we want to hear. To hear of Jesus’ cross - and then to hear his words that, in order to follow him, we have to be prepared to take up our own is definitely an incentive to selective deafness!
Jesus is, however, unequivocal: he is the Christ but the Christ is destined to suffer. Not only that, but his followers will also face losing their lives and, indeed it is only in losing them that we save them.
For Mark’s community, this Gospel would have been a source of strength. Many of the early Christians were dying - or knew of people who had died for their faith. The fact that Jesus had foretold this would have been reassuring and enabled them to set this suffering into the context of that of Jesus.
For many people in the world today, active persecution is not a problem: most can go to church unhindered. For others, the choice to become and remain a Christian leads inevitably to suffering. This may be loss of prospects and education - or it may be torture and death. To face those requires whole-hearted commitment to their faith.
For those who do not suffer persecution, the words of Jesus may seem less relevant. However, most people have a cross of one kind or another: illness or disability - addiction - an unhappy family-life - bereavement - and more... For them, being willing to endure and persevere requires as real a commitment as those facing persecution. In the eyes of the world they may not seem as heroic - but their fidelity and perseverance form their path to eternal life.
What does it mean for me?
© 2006 Wellspring