Saturday, 15 September 2018

September 16th 2018. Twenty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time
GOSPEL Mark 7:31-37
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL Mark 8:27-35 
Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that I am?"
They said in reply,
"John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets."
And he asked them,
"But who do you say that I am?"
Peter said to him in reply,
"You are the Christ."
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the gospel will save it."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . Peter recognizes that Jesus is the Christ but he does not accept that Christ should suffer. Jesus severely reprimands him: “Get behind me Satan! You do not think according to God’s ways but according to human ways”. When Jesus tells Peter to get behind him, he is simply asking Peter to follow him. He is saying, “You must follow me. I will not follow you.” Jesus asks us to follow him, to renounce ourselves and take up our crosses. When we follow ourselves, then we make our own thinking into an absolute. This thinking might well seem very rational, but it leads to the horrors of history like Auschwitz. How different life would be if we followed the Lord and took up the crosses that come our way! Then life would be beautiful and sublime. The first reading from Isaiah speaks of a person who opens his ear to listen to the Lord, and this enables him to accept life’s tribulations with serenity. The first enemy that seeks to prevent us from following the Lord is the great god of our lives: our own ego. When we learn to say “No” to ourselves then we are enabled to come out of ourselves and enter into love. The house that we must always seek to escape from is that of the absolutisation of ourselves. The cross of coming out of ourselves is not imposed on us. Jesus invites us to “take it up” - an expression which highlights that it should be embraced freely and valued as a gift that leads to growth and self-detachment. Once we abandon ourselves, then we begin to think according to the logic of God. We begin to acquire true wisdom.

When I humbly open my ear to the Lord, then I am able to accept the trials that life sends me.
The opening lines of the first reading sound a little strange: “The Lord opens my ear that I may hear. I have not offered resistance nor turned away. I gave my back to those who beat me. I did not shield my face from insults and spitting”. What is the connection, though, between the Lord opening my ear and me not turning away from the difficulties of life? This expression regarding the opening of my ear is a fairly common term in the Old Testament and refers to the capacity to listen well. In everyday life, we also say things like, “Open your ears to what I’m saying! Hear me well!” When the Lord opens my ear and I manage to welcome what he is saying to me, then I accept the tribulations that come my way. Later on the text from Isaiah says, “The Lord comes to my aid and for this reason I will not be shamed”. When I am attuned to the Lord then I do not descend into the embarrassment of what I am when I am alone, left to my own devices, incapable of true freedom. When I am receptive to what the Lord is saying, then I live like a prince or princess. Because I have opened my ear to the Lord, the wisdom of the Lord has entered into me and permits me to live well that which comes my way.

Jesus asks Peter not to think in worldly terms but in Godly terms. When we make our thinking an absolute and cut it off from God, then we end up constructing concentration camps and the other horrors of human history
In the Gospel, Jesus reprimands Peter very severely: “You do not think as God does but as human beings do!” How can we make the transition from thinking according to the logic of this world to thinking according to the logic of God? How can we pass from the mediocre to the sublime, to thinking like children of God? Let us consider the Gospel. Peter has one piece of information correct: Jesus is the Christ. But he scolds Jesus for not being the kind of Messiah that he wants him to be. The Christ is the one sent by God and the fulfilment of the promises. But when Peter hears Jesus talking about suffering and pain, he cannot comprehend it. The notion of resurrection does not enter into his head. All he can see is the scandal of suffering. This prompts Jesus to respond to Peter with the shocking reprimand of calling him “Satan”. Peter’s error is to think according to the logic of humanity. So the Lord takes him apart and puts Peter behind him, saying “Get behind me Satan!” Peter is not to set the direction in which the Lord is to go. Jesus is saying, “It is you who must follow me. I will not follow you”. This is a serious instruction by the Lord. If we want to come to the Lord, then we must follow him. If we want to attain true life, the life that goes beyond death, then we must follow him. If human intelligence makes itself an absolute value, and does not follow the Lord, then we create the foundations of everything of which we have been witnesses in recent centuries. We set the foundations of Auschwitz, the Russian gulags, all of the horrors of history where human ideas count more than life, where such ideas are made into absolutes and we follow them more than Providence.

We cannot come out of ourselves and enter into love unless we learn to abandon ourselves and our egoistic preoccupations
The words of the Lord, “Get behind me!” is actually a call to Peter to follow Jesus. True life involves this following of the Lord, not imposing our own rhythms on things. And if we wish to follow the Lord then we must be open to the discourse of the Lord, the discourse of providence. Once we put ourselves behind Jesus, then we begin to affront the true kernel of human life. “If anyone wishes to follow me, then he must renounce himself”. The first enemy that seeks to prevent us from following the Lord is the great god of our lives: our ego. The original meaning of “to renounce oneself” means to say “No” to something that I had previously assented to. Some psychotherapists says that mental equilibrium requires a disassociation from one’s own ego. One cannot come out of oneself and enter into love without learning to abandon oneself. The house that we must always seek to escape from is that of the absolutisation of ourselves.

The cross is not imposed on us. We are invited to take it up as something positive that leads to growth and detachment.
Then, once we renounce ourselves, we are to “take up our crosses and follow him”. The term “to take up” does not imply submission or imposition. Rather it indicates the positive action of reaching out for something. The cross is something that we are to value. We accept the sufferings that come with our mission in life, and we transform them into virtues. We do this by the grace of God because we know that our Lord is the one who brings life from death, consolation from suffering. We use and value the cross, aware that it leads to growth, that it represents the moment of abandonment and faith. It also represents love because we know that the one who has loved us has done so through the cross, through a sacrificial offering for our benefit.

If I follow Jesus, then I take up my cross and renounce my own ways of doing things. Thus, I begin to think according to the logic of God and I attain true wisdom
Jesus adds, “He who wishes to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake and for that of the Gospel, will save it”. How many lives do we have? We have one only and we must lose it in order to find the life that is real! In following Jesus, we take up the cross and renounce our egos; thus we lose our introverted system of living, and, behold, we discover that we are entering into beauty; we enter into life, into the sublime; and from that point forward we begin to think according to the logic of God. Thus, from this experience of abandoning ourselves and focusing on being open to Providence, to the vicissitudes of life, we arrive at new life, and we become truly wise.

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