Homily for the twenty-fourth Sunday of the year - Year B - Mk. 8:27-35


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do men say that I am?' And they told him, 'John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.' And he asked them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered him, 'You are the Christ.' And he charged them to tell no one about him.


"And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.'


"And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.' "





Homily:


"Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, 'Who do men say that I am?' "


Here, Jesus insists on an important point, one which is very dear to his heart: that of knowledge. Do the men, the women, the disciples he chose to follow him and to continue his work later on, do they all know exactly who he is? The answer, which we read in today's Gospel, is more no than yes. Yet Jesus insists on it very much, enormously. Is this really so important? Certainly! For Jesus himself said: "This is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." (Jn. 17:3)


Knowledge of God, knowledge of Jesus Christ is thus important, capital, for upon it depends our participation in the very life of God. From it derives the importance and necessity of the Church's teaching and proclamation of Christ, in good times and bad! The Church is missionary and she proclaims the Good News of Salvation in Jesus Christ. The Church of all times and all places must proclaim his message throughout the whole world: Jesus, the Son of God, died and rose again for the Salvation of all men of goodwill!


"And they told him, 'John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.' And he asked them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered him, 'You are the Christ.' And he charged them to tell no one about him."


This conversation between Jesus and his disciples is reported at greater length in Saint Matthew (cf. Mt. 16:13-20). It is at this point in time that Simon receives his new name, Peter, as well as the power to act in the name of Christ in binding and loosing. Saint Mark summarizes and records the catechesis of Peter. Peter, in his teaching, did not need to speak of his investiture: there was no need, for his word itself was the proof of his authority. Peter, indeed, did not need to prove that he was the foundation, the rock on which the Master had built his Church: the Holy Spirit proved it for him, by giving his word the omnipotence which is that of very God!


"And he charged them to tell no one about him." This command was spoken by the Wisdom of God in person! There is a time to be silent, and a time to speak. Only the Spirit of God can enable us to know what we must do when we are persecuted, for example. We must speak when it is necessary, and we must be silent when it is necessary. At that time, Jesus had to speak only of himself, for, before Pentecost, he was the one, single Head of the Church, having the power to make himself known to the entire world. Today, this power is shared by the entire Church, who makes use of it to propagate the gospel message.


"And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.' "


Jesus begins to announce his Passion to his disciples. This doesn't go very well, in particular for Peter, who tries to reason with the Master. Evil overcame him! Yet, hadn't Simon become "Peter", the unshakeable rock? Yes, but, in a little while, Peter will deny his Master, for Simon is not the original rock, the chosen and precious Stone (cf. 1 P. 2:4): he is only the image, the copy of the original, of the model who is Jesus Christ. Now, at that time, Jesus had not yet resurrected or gone up to heaven: it would only be after having undergone all the torments of his Passion and his Death on the cross that Jesus would definitively be the Cornerstone rejected by the builders. So Simon Peter is filled with the thoughts of men, as long as his model, Christ, had not yet gone through his Passover...


"And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, 'If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.' "


This is a hard teaching, difficult to listen to! Yet, Peter learned it: his triple denial made him a man whose heart had become ardent with love of Christ, a man who closely follows Christ throughout his entire life. Unlike Paul, Peter lived with Jesus on earth: for Peter, to live as a "stone" in Christ was of primary importance, and this is why the Holy Spirit did not inspire Peter to write very much. On the other hand Paul did not live with Jesus, whom he had not known on earth, but rather he contemplated him in spirit, and this is why he was inspired to write so much: in order to record on paper what he had seen in spirit.


Peter and Paul both followed Jesus closely, each bearing his respective cross. Both suffered for having proclaimed the gospel: Peter had the privilege to die on the cross, like his Master, although he asked to be attached to the cross upside-down, not considering himself worthy to die in the same manner as the Savior. Paul, after having undergone many sufferings during his numerous voyages, was decapitated, which was the punishment reserved to Roman citizens. Peter, Paul, all the disciples of Christ bore their crosses, whether literally or figuratively. Now it is our turn!


The Gospel must be proclaimed, in good times and bad! It must be done! God wills it! Let us do what is necessary! But before going on our mission, let us entrust our endeavor to the Most Holy Virgin Mary: she was there, standing at the foot of the Cross of her Son. Now, it is we whom she watches and encourages with her maternal gaze! So let us have courage! This is the price of eternal Life!



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