Thursday, 12 March 2015


‘Do priests have blood???’ Such was the startling question the little girl put to me when she saw my raw, bruised knuckle. Carelessly, without noticing it, in my haste I’d brushed my hand against a rough wall.  Do priests have blood? Where on earth had she dug up the impression that we priests might be bloodless aliens that look like humans?
 There came a point when the disciples no longer had vague or far-fetched impressions about Jesus. By the grace of God, Peter could profess with confidence, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,’ (Mtt.16.16) The response of Jesus was – more or less, ‘Well done! You've got it right!’                                           I’m going to great things through you!’                                   So far so very good!
What were the disciples then to make of Jesus soon afterward telling them, ‘Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes.  They will condemn Him to death 19 and will hand Him over to the gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day He will be raised up again,’ (Matt.16.21)
. Jesus was someone they someone they admired, respected and  loved. They were hearing this so soon after Peter had made  such a magnificent act of faith in Jesus; and Jesus had so roundly expressed His approval. This shocked them, hurt them, confused them.  Their  immediate reaction had to be, ‘This must not happen! We won’t let it happen! For starters, don’t go to Jerusalem!’
What followed was explosive, feelings were so intense, so raw,Then, taking him aside, Peter started to rebuke Him. 'Heaven preserve you, Lord,' he said, 'this must not happen to you.' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do.' 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me, (Matt.16.22).
Matters couldn't have been worse.  The disciples were bewildered, baffled. They could not cope with what they were hearing so soon after they had identified Jesus as the Christ. The title ‘Christ,’ that is ‘Messiah,’ was so loaded. It spoke of the promises that God had long ago made to His People; promises that were cherished from one generation to another. It described a man with an exceptional God-given mission that would herald in an age of well-being, even of liberation from the various humiliating oppression the people had suffered over the years and were still suffering.
Just what Jesus had mean to His followers was eloquently articulated by two of HIs disciples on their way to Emmaus ‘Our own hope had been that He would be the one to set Israel free,’ (Lk, 24.21).
              The Christ had been expected to be LEADER, LIBERATOR!                                Not simply a NICE GUY – no matter how kind He was,                   no matter many how miracles of healing He worked. 
The disciples must have thought that the rejection, suffering and death Jesus had predicted for Himself was in total contradiction with all that God had led His People to expect of the Christ. God’s very own plans would  have been  frustrated.  How could the disciples avoid concluding, ‘If all this is going to happen to you, then you will no use to use to us? One who is rejected, scourged and crucified can’t help but be a failure.’
Now I want to leave you, and even myself, to ponder the dilemma, the bewilderment, the dismay of the  disciples of Jesus. What say you, what say I, to these words of St. Paul, ‘God's folly is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength,’ (1 Cor. 1.25)? 
Peter Clarke, O.P. 

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