Sunday, 16 September 2018



In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus instructed the deaf mute, whom He’d just cured, not to tell anyone about this miracle.  Although this was a sign of the dawning of the Messianic again Jesus realised that this news would lead to the nature of His mission being completely misunderstood.   Already people had begun to speculate about His identity as they heard Him preach with authority and saw Him cure the sick.   Some thought He was a threat to the established religion, others considered Him to be an upstart, while others were filled with wonder.          
So, with all this speculation, it’s not surprising that Jesus should ask His disciples what people made of Him.   Some, they said, thought He was John the Baptist or Elijah or one of the prophets, returned from the dead.  But then Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was.   This question sought much more than a name or label, which even His enemies could have given.   Jesus wanted to know what He meant to them. What does He mean to you and me?  Peter replied that Jesus was the Christ –the Messiah.  That was a wonderful insight, which according to Matthew’s Gospel, must have been divinely revealed.     
Surprisingly, Jesus instructed Peter to keep this insight to himself.   Why?  Well, Jesus was about to explain to His disciples what being the Christ really meant.   He was to fulfil the role of Isaiah’s Servant of the Lord who would achieve God’s salvation through His suffering.     More precisely, Jesus told them that He would be rejected and executed, but would then rise from the dead.   That was not the kind of Messiah Peter wanted. So, out of misguided love for Jesus he tried to protect Him from the fate He had prophesied for Himself.   Peter had used the right title of ‘Christ’ with which Mark introduced his Gospel, but Peter completely misunderstood its true meaning, which would only become clear in the light of the resurrection.  In trying to protect Jesus from Himself He had become a real temptation, threatening His mission.   Jesus’ intimate friend, who had just rightly identified Him as the ‘Christ’ now became His most insidious enemy from within.   That’s why Jesus rebuke Peter with the harshest words in the Gospel: 
'Get behind me Satan! (or 'tempter').  Because the way you think is not God’s but man’s.’
Jesus then told the people and the disciples that if they wanted to be His followers they must renounce themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him. 
So, today’s Gospel starts by removing misunderstandings about Christ’s identity and mission, and concludes by defining our identity in relation to Jesus.  He asks each one of us, "Who do you think I am; what do I mean to you?” For each of us there’s the temptation to cast Him, and our relationship with Him, in a mould of our own designing.   It would be so much more comfortable for us to have a cosy undemanding relationship with Jesus, one which didn’t challenge our sense of values and the way we live.  But, like Peter, we must learn to accept and welcome Jesus on  His own terms.  Like Peter, we must allow Jesus to lead us to the glory of the resurrection, by way of the cross.   For Jesus, Peter and for us there’s no gain without pain.
Isidore O.P.

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