Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 12, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Is 50:5-9a / Ps 116 / Jas 2:14-18 / Mk 8:27-35
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
There is a story about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a camping trip. As they lay sleeping one night, Holmes woke Watson and said,
“Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.”
Watson said, “I see millions of stars.”
Holmes asked, “And what does that tell you?”
Watson replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”
Holmes answered, “Someone stole our tent.”
Some people are great at speculative knowledge, but when it comes to its implication for practical living, sometimes they are not very good. Such is Peter in today’s gospel. In this Sunday’s gospel, we learn that people recognize Jesus differently.
Because of His zealous preaching, people will tend to compare Him to John the Baptist or Elijah and the other prophets. However, no one has discovered His true identity. So Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter said, “You are Christ. You are the Messiah.”
Yes, Peter’s answer was correct. But his understanding of the Messiah was different from that of Jesus’ understanding of Himself. When Jesus spoke of His future suffering and death at the hands of the leaders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, Peter rebuked Him, “Lord, that will not happen to You.”
Peter and the Jews had their own understanding of the Messiah. Christ, for them, is a political and military leader who will fight for them and save them from all enemies. Peter tried to tell Jesus that He would not suffer crucifixion because He was good. “After all, you are close to God. You have performed many miracles. You have led a wonderful life. How could God possibly let You suffer?” And the answer of Jesus was, “You are not judging by God’s standards, but by your own.”
In the eyes of the world, the cross is a symbol of cruelty and death, but in the eyes of God, the cross is a symbol of great love and life. For men, the cross is a symbol of shame and defeat, but for God, the cross is a symbol of glory and victory. In fact, love can only be real if it is willing to sacrifice and give of itself for others. This is the kind of love that Jesus shows us.
“Who do you say that I am?” This question of Jesus for His disciples reminds us of the value of properly recognizing Him. Proper knowledge of God helps us understand our life and mission in the Church. A misunderstanding of God often leads to a misunderstanding of the Christian life.
There is a story of two children who stood in front of the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. One of them noticed that wherever he stood, the eyes of the Lord would be upon him. He asked the companion, “Why is it that wherever we stand, the eyes of Jesus follow us?” The other child responded, “He’s watching us so He knows if we do something wrong.” But the first child said, “I don’t think so. Jesus’s eyes follow us because He will make sure that nothing bad will happen to us.” Two different answers.
If we believe that Jesus is a judgmental God, we will likely live always full of fear of Him. We obey the law, we obey the commandments, not because we know that is right, but simply out of fear of the Lord’s punishment. However, if we come to know Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we are more likely to live in confidence and will live happily. We obey His commandments, not out of fear of the punishment of hell, but because we are convinced that it is the right thing to do.
If our recognition of Jesus is only as a king, we will most likely ponder how to please Him. We will have problems with what things or treasure to offer Him. If we see Jesus as a loving God, however, we are likely to feel His nurture and care in our daily lives. Because of this, we will be grateful and righteous in return for all the kindness, forgiveness, and love He has given to each one of us.
It is also good to ask the Lord this question: “Who am I to you, Lord?” It is only by knowing who we really are that we can move forward in our spiritual life. The Lord’s answer would be that we are sinners. He alone is the Holy One and we should never forget this. But Jesus assures us that every time we commit sin, the Lord said that it is not our sin that is repeated, it is His mercy that is repeated.