Tag Archives: who do you say that I am

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

1st Reading – Isaiah 50: 5-9a

This passage is also the appointed reading for Palm Sunday.  This is the third servant song from Second Isaiah.  The people are still in the throes of captivity yet reject the prophet’s message of hope.  The exile continues and the people are getting tired of this prophet saying there will be a positive outcome (Birmingham, W&W, 642).  Yet he must be heard!  Isaiah is adamant that his voice must be heard because God is by his side.  What faith.  How does this speak to you?  When have you felt this boldness to pursue what is right and important to you?

Christians, of course, saw in these songs the picture of Jesus, our Christ.

In fact they were used to help them pray about and understand Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection. They also contained an inherent challenge for Jesus’ disciples – and for us. (Celebration, Sept. 2006)  How do they challenge you?

2nd Reading – James 2: 14-18

This letter is getting down to the brass tacks of our faith.  If we have faith, what are we going to do about it?  How does this reading inspire and/or challenge you?

There was quite the debate in the early church community about faith and works.  Paul often spoke as faith being God’s gift to us, and so many thought Paul was in opposition to James’ letter.  But both can work together.  “To be Christian means to act upon the Word as our response in love,” (Birmingham, W&W, 643).  Who inspires you as someone who balances their faith and works?  

The Gospel – Mark 8: 27-35

“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus questions.  Jesus in his humanity is revealed in this question.  Jesus first asks what others think of him, but then he gets to what he really cares about…what do his friends think of him?  Revelation literally means an “unveiling” or “disclosure” of something previously hidden.  Jesus is God revealed:

  1. Revelation is God’s own self-disclosure.
  2. Revelation points to particular events and particular people through whom God has communicated in decisive ways with humanity.
  3. Revelation calls for our personal response and appropriation.  True knowledge of God is a practical rather than a merely theoretical knowledge.
  4. Revelation of God is always a disturbing, even shocking event.  Look at Jesus!  He ate with sinners-this was shocking at the time.
  5. Revelation transforms the imagination…it stretches out understanding.

Taken from Faith Seeking Understanding by D. Migliore, p. 24  Who is Jesus to you?  How does He reveal himself to you in these different ways?

Notice how Jesus speaks openly, but Peter immediately turns defensive.  Jesus does not shy away from confrontation.  He walks right into it.  Jesus is clear about what the future brings for him, and it will mean suffering.  But through human weakness, the strength of God abides  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 642, 645).  Jesus challenges us to find strength in our weakness…to be open when we are hurting and sad.  Can you do that?  Can you live a life openly like Jesus did?

Jesus:  divine AND human?  We question this because we are trying to understand who he is.  Our love for him makes us WANT to know him.  In the end, there will always be some mystery in the knowing.  Like with all of us, we may never truly understand and know each other completely.  St. Augustine said, “If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.”  But does that stop us from loving anyway?

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1st Reading: Isaiah 22: 19-23

This is from 1st Isaiah. The prophet seemed to hold this Shebna in “undisguised contempt.” Shebna at the time was sort of like a secretary of state and chief of staff to King Hezekiah. He wore the great key of the palace looped over his shoulder as a sign of his power and importance.  It seemed that he did all he could to further his own interests and power, even ordering a lavish tomb for himself on the top of a hillside.  He also seemed to like to show off and ‘hot-rod’ around in his chariots. See Isaiah 22: 15-19. He becomes here a symbol of misused power and authority. He is replaced by Eliakim whom Isaiah had hoped would be true to calling. Later, Eliakim also abused his power.  (Mary Birmingham, W&W, 487)

History is messy like that; it is full of dreams that turn to nightmares and hopes that end with dashed expectations. Too often leaders care more about self-preservation and power than about the welfare of those they serve. Jesus stands in contrast here, too. That’s why as Christians we are people of hope and faith despite the sufferings and setbacks of our very real lives.  (“Exploring the Sunday Readings,” August, 2008)

2nd Reading: Romans 11: 33-36

It was frustrating to Paul that the people he loved, including Gentile converts, could not see what was so clear to him:  that Jesus is Messiah and Savior of the world.  He tried to understand, but there was no explanation.  He finally decided to accept and trust God’s will (Birmingham, W&W, p. 488).  Consider how this might ring true in your life – a loved one doesn’t understand a deep truth that you believe in.  What do you do?  Do you trust and hand it over to God?

The Gospel: Matthew 16: 13-20

It is only Matthew’s gospel that has the section on Simon as Peter, the ‘rock,’ and the giving of the keys of the kingdom along with the ‘binding and loosening.’ He also is the only one to use the word church here. He uses it again in 18: 17-18 when the binding and loosening is given to the whole community. Later theology with its profound experience of the Risen Christ is certainly reflected in this passage. Yet, it also reflects the ‘Mediterranean mind’ of Jesus’ culture which was much more oriented toward the ‘community’ than we are. It would be, for instance, very common for someone to care about what others think about them.  Jesus, like all the other humans of his time and culture, would value such feedback. And, in Jesus’ case, it might have been even more important because he did not fit any of the usual stereotypes. Jesus was not just the usual ‘person from Nazareth’ or the common artisan or stone worker’s son. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, John Pilch, 127+)  We are seeing the humanity of Jesus.

Keys were a very important sign of power and authority in the ancient world.  It was a sign of sharing in the power of the king; it enabled one to open, to provide access to the source of power, the ruler. These keys were large and cumbersome – often two feet in length. They were worn on a loop slung over the shoulder by the person who had the authority ‘to open.’ Furthermore, this passage is emphasizing certain important faith components. One, the church, the community of believers, must be rooted in the confession of Jesus as Messiah (Christ) and Son of God (Lord). What makes Peter a ‘foundation rock’ for this church is his faith relationship with Jesus.  Two, the church that we belong to is by nature a church in conflict; it is the designated opponent of evil in the world. It must be the champion of truth, goodness, justice, and right. And, despite the suffering and challenge that evil may bring, the jaws of death (the gates of Hades) will not prevail against it.  (Celebration, August, 2005)

This passage concerning Peter must have been very important to Matthew’s community. What – in the end – made Peter such a good choice? He certainly had his faults. In fact, in just a few more lines in the gospel Peter is told by Jesus that he is an obstacle and a satan (See the gospel for the following week) because he does not want him to confront evil and the suffering that will come from that. He is told by Jesus to get behind him – of course that is where all of Jesus’ followers belong. Peter is a leader who knew failure and misunderstanding. But Peter never gave up on the mercy of God that he found in Christ Jesus (John Kavanaugh, “The Word Embodied,” http://liturgy.slu.edu. & “Exploring the Sunday Readings,” August, 2008)

The question is also very personal – asked directly of his followers, and each of us – for Jesus must be a personal discovery. Our knowledge of Jesus cannot be second hand. It is not knowing about Jesus. It is about knowing Jesus. Jesus demands a personal response . . . Peter is the first to make this personal response. On such a response of faith in Christ God will gather his people (the word, church, means a gathering of the people of the Lord). Jesus is the cornerstone; those who come to know and trust in Jesus as the Christ will become the stones or rocks that will build a new gathering, a new temple for all times and all people. And the gates of Hades (the place of the dead) will not prevail against such a gathering of faith. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 133-146)

Authority – the focus of this week’s readings – is today about the power to enforce laws or to judge or determine what is right or true. An accepted source of expert information is also called an authority. Our English word is rooted in the Latin word auctorem or autor, which means enlarger, founder, or, more literally, one who causes to grow. Thus, it could be inferred that those on whom authority has been conferred are vested with the power and responsibility to help others to grow. This authority can either be used rightly or it can be abused.