Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lord, how can I think any differently? After all, human is what I am…

Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self. St. Francis of Assisi

Gospel text (Mk 8:27-33): Jesus set out with his disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked them, «Who do people say I am?». And they told him, «Some say you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah or one of the prophets». Then Jesus asked them, «But you, who do you say I am?». Peter answered, «You are the Messiah». And he ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, «Get behind me Satan! You are thinking, not as God does, but as people do».

I find it tempting to correlate Jesus’ use of the word “human” in this Gospel passage with a variety of negative adjectives. The cynic in me would cause me to do so, perhaps the cynic in all of us would. On the other hand, I would also feel compelled to defend my humanity as something that is sacred, beautiful, and noble.

In my imagination, Christ smiles at my exclamations, merely nodding his agreement with me. He says, “You’re right, humanity can be dark and destructive. I have shown you the Way of God in thoughts, words, and deeds, but it will always be up to you to live it. Do not speak from emotions and false pretenses like Peter did; rather, listen with your heart and think using what I have taught you. Then you will be on your way to living as I did.” He closes with a smile that thinly veils all the wisdom of the world, and comfortingly reminds me that, with grace, such a life is not impossible.

Now, maybe my imaginary Jesus did not say things in the way that yours might have said them, but I think the point is still viable. Namely, we must constantly strive to look beyond the little things in this world that cloud our vision and judgment. They can range from something as insignificant as a rude comment made towards us at the beginning of the day to something as serious as a moral failure on our part. Each moment is a new opportunity for us to live as Christ lived, to see the world through loving eyes, willing to serve each other and learn from each other.

We, Christians, must discover our identity and prove our own faith through being good examples with our life. This duty is an urgent task to transmit a clear and understandable message to our brothers and sisters, who will find in Jesus that Word of Life bestowing meaning to what they may think, say or do. But, this witness must begin with us being totally conscious of our meeting with Jesus. John Paul II, in his apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte wrote: «Our witness, however, would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face».

Saint Mark, with this text, offers us the right way to contemplate Jesus. First, Jesus asks us who do people say He is; and we can answer, with the disciples: John the Baptist or Elijah, in other words an important, good and attractive person. Certainly, a good answer, but too far away from Jesus' Truth. Then, He goes on asking us: «But you, who do you say I am?». It is the question of faith, of our personal implication. And we shall only find the answer in the experience of silence and praying. It is the faith path Peter followed which we should follow also.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us come to know through prayer the liberating presence of God's love, which is present in our life. He keeps on making alliances with us with clears signs of his presence, as that rainbow appearing through the clouds promised Noah.

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