Monday, 17 June 2013

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Zechariah 12:10-11,13:1; Galatians 3:26-29; Luke 9:18-24

It must have been a wonderful thing to be among the disciples gathered with Jesus - watching him at prayer, learning from him what it means to place oneself in the presence of the Father.

Suddenly Jesus looks up, turns to them and asks them a double-barrelled question: Who do the crowds say I am? - Who do you say I am?

Jesus makes a distinction, he wants to make a distinction, between the crowds and the disciples. Crowds are more numerous. There are always more sheep than shepherds, even today. Crowds have no centre, they are not led by anyone, and therefore a crowd has no single focus. This is reflected in the divergent answers they have to the question Jesus poses. John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the ancient prophets come  back to life. In a crowd you will find misinformation, opinion, superstitious rumour, mad gossip and bizarre conjecture but little, if any, truth.

In the small group of disciples things are different. They are led by the Shepherd who is training them to become shepherds of his flock. Jesus is the centre of their group; their single focus. During the three years in which they accompanied Jesus’ their direct and intimate experience of him, remembered, discussed and enlivened by divine grace would eventually form the foundation of the the Church's memory of him - her Scripture and her living Tradition. The Apostles have only one answer to Jesus’ question: The Christ of God; and it is given by one man, one of their number. When the Church is asked – Peter answers!

The opinions of the crowds are many and they are constantly changing; the teachings of the Church are one and remain forever. And they are always guaranteed by Peter.

So let us be wary of the group-think, the pop creeds and passing fads of the crowds. A few decades ago abortion and homosexual practice were considered abhorrent; today there are abortion mills everywhere and efforts to recognise homosexual ‘marriage’ in the law of the land. All too evidently the crowd arrives at its own ‘truth’ and can change it at will. The Church, however, receives the truth from above – as revelation from God through Jesus – and must preserve and defend it, no matter the cost, down through the centuries, until the final revelation of Christ.

Jesus now goes on to make a second distinction – that between the ‘pop’ understanding of the word Christ and the true meaning of the word. This is why he cautions his disciples ‘not to tell anyone about this.’

A common misconception among the crowd was that the Christ would be a powerful political liberator who would set Israel free from the Romans. This was far from the truth.

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

Do you see what I mean by ‘revelation’? This was no invention of a particularly creative student at the Jerusalem Bible College. Neither was it the outcome of a gallop poll. This was the astonishing, incredible, unexpected word of truth brought to the world from heaven by the Word of God made flesh.

When Peter, in the Gospel of Matthew (16:23), attempts to ‘correct’ this word of Jesus: Heaven preserve you, Lord ... this must not happen to you; he is forcefully put in his place by the Lord who commands him: Get behind me, Satan! ...the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.

And so we come to the third distinction Jesus makes – that between the himself and the disciple. Note the progression of this Gospel passage – I am; I do; you do. I am the Christ, I suffer and rise, you must follow.
  • I renounce; you renounce.
  • I take up my Cross; you take up yours.
  • I die; you die.
  • I will rise; you will rise.
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.’

Following the Lord throughout the journey of our life is a wonderful thing. So many people don’t know where they are going and so many don’t know which direction their lives should take. We Catholic Christians are so lucky; we follow the Lord.

l know exactly where l am going – Wherever he takes me! And what greater security could anyone claim?

As today’s Gospel Acclamation says: The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice, says the Lord, I know them and they follow me. How glad we should be, in a world that is becoming increasingly more lost, that we are the flock of the Lord and that we follow him.

And the alternative acclamation exults for exactly the same reason:

I am the light of the world, says the Lord;
anyone who follows me will have the light of life. 

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