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Accept Jesus for Who He Really Is

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Sixth Week of Ordinary Time

by Fr. David M. Knight

Mark 8:27-33.Year II: James 2:1-9; Psalm 34:2-7. Today's reading marks a a turning point in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus asks, as Herod did, who people think he is, and gets the same answer: John, Elijah, one of the prophets (6:14). But Peter, speaking for his disciples, identifies him as the Messiah. And Jesus accepts that, although he overturns completely their understanding of what it means. He reveals that he is going to win by losing He will be delivered into the hands of his enemies and killed. He will not overcome human power by greater human power made invincible by God. He will not impose peace by war, stamp out violence by greater violence, teach respect for human life by killing those who kill, or use fear to convert those who do not believe in love.

In short, he is going to save the world by enduring evil with love, accepting whatever suffering the sins of the world happen to drop on his shoulders and loving back. And anyone who follows him must do the same. Peter is quick to tell him how crazy that is: “People want a savior who is going to save them from suffering, not tell them to endure it with love!” Then Jesus, “turning and looking at his disciples,” rebuked Peter more fiercely than he did anyone in the Gospels. ““Get behind me, you devil!” He wanted them all to know that Peter’s attitude — undoubtedly common to them all — struck at the very heart of God’s plan for redeeming the world. To see the “mystery of the cross” as bad news is to reject, render impotent and pervert the Good News at its core. Since Mark’s first chapter Jesus has been striving to keep people from thinking his role as Messiah is to take pain and suffering out of the world. He frequently did, and still does, of course, by working miracles of healing, just out of compassion. But healing bodies will not heal the world. Reducing poverty will not reduce selfishness and greed. Destroying enemies will not obliterate hate. There is no true wholeness, happiness or peace offered by Jesus Christ that does not require a decision on the level of the heart to renounce everything in this world, including life itself, in order to “love back,” no matter what one is made to suffer by others. And this, take it or leave it, is the Good News! Mark has tried to prepare us for it by delaying the revelation of Christ’s identity. But sooner or later we have to accept or reject him as the Messiah he really is. And now the story changes. The rest of Mark’s Gospel will offer repeated challenges and instructions on the “ultimatum of the cross.” Initiative: Get deep and pray. Ask help to accept God’s way of saving the world.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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