Readings: Is 50:4-9; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35
“Who do people say that I am?” Who is Jesus for me? Knowing Jesus is quite radical. Let me first tell you a true story. On March 24, 1980, while celebrating the Eucharist, Blessed Oscar Romero was shot and killed at the altar by a death squad assassin, paying the highest price for his commitment about which he spoke so often and so eloquently in defense of the people of El Salvador. He knew who Jesus was for him, and that is why he was not afraid to give witness and to die as Jesus did. I tell this story because the readings this Sunday focus on the identity of Jesus. Genuine understanding of who Jesus is leads to identifying with his vision, mission and purpose. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah calls our attention to the fact that persecution and suffering were the destiny of the Servant of God. “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard….” In the second reading, James speaks clearly on what genuine faith in Christ entails. He underlines the necessity of corporal works of mercy to the poor, as the best expression of true faith. In other words, action speaks louder than words. It is not enough to tell a hungry person “Go in peace…and eat well.” A parish that has no social ministry service is not fully responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It lacks the compassion and love of Christ as he hangs on the cross.
In the Gospel reading, Peter, like many of us thought that he knew who Jesus was, only to be shocked by Jesus' prediction of his own suffering, death and resurrection. Our call by Christ must involve the Cross. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Like Peter, we want to live our faith on our own terms, without the mystery of the cross; without being involved in the suffering of those in need. Certainly this is not easy, for it means denying ourselves of our own comfort so that others may have a little. The readings remind us that the cross is the path to our extraordinary mission. There is no short-cut. It means being prepared to risk dying for others like Blessed Oscar Romero of El Salvador. He knew who Jesus was for him, and that is why he was not afraid to die as Jesus did. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) As disciples and stewards of Jesus, our commitment to Him must lead to a deeper understanding of the Cross as part of His identity and ours too. 2) Jesus reminds us that following him implies suffering and dying with him so that we may raise with him to eternal life. 3) Like Blessed Oscar Romero and so many other holy people, our extraordinary mission is accomplished through the Cross with Jesus in order to enter with Him to eternal life. Think about it.
©2015 John S. Mbinda