YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY OF THE ORDINARY TIME.
THEME:FROM PUBLIC OPINION TO PERSONAL CONVICTION
BY REV FR ANSELM CHIGOZIE AMADI
IS 50:5-9, JAS 2 :14-18, MK 8:27-35
We are called to answer the fundamental question of our faith: “who do you say I am?” By this Jesus calls us away from the public opinion to personal conviction about his identity. To know Jesus means to know him as the Messiah in the light of the qualities foretold by the prophet: the suffering servant. True knowledge of Jesus Christ produces in the believer the knowledge of true self, which in turn leads to denial of self, the false self.
The apostles were fluent when Jesus sought from them the public opinion of him, but were short of words when it came to their personal knowledge of Jesus . It was only Peter that identified him as the Christ. It is possible today for us to float on the social religious sentiments without personal reason behind our movements. One can be attracted to Jesus by mere glamour of religion without knowing who Jesus is. Such faith status reduces Christianity to mere social gathering.
Though Peter identified him as the Christ, yet this great confession could not completely escape the dent of popular ideology. That is, Christ without the cross. Peter’s misguided act of love made him Satan.
GET BEHIND ME SATAN
Jesus referred to Peter as Satan because he suggested the same thing Satan did at the temptation, and that is short cut to glory. “… And he showed him all the Kingdoms of the world and their glory and said, all these I will give you if you will fall down and worship me (Mat 4:9)”. Jesus’ reply to Satan (get behind me Satan) was applied to Peter because he was suggesting a short cut to glory, that is, avoiding the way of the cross. This was exactly the last scheme of the enemy. It is God’s will that Jesus will suffer to win his glory, anything on the contrary comes from the evil one.
THE UNPOPULAR WAY
Isaiah foretold the suffering servant of God and the unpopular qualities associated with him thus “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard, my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting”. This is the virtue of meekness that characterises the Messiah. It consists in restraining the emotions of passion against those those who provoke us to anger and in bearing insults. This is the great quality by which we know the Christ. By this he submitted sweetly to his enemies and accepted without complaining, all the insults given to him. Hence St. Peter wrote of him ” when he was reviled, he did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten. But submitted to him who judges justly (1pet 2:23)”.
THE GREAT DEMAND
The Lord demands self denial as the only condition to be his disciples. Personal knowledge of Jesus Christ leads to knowledge of self. The “self” Jesus speaks about is the false self that exists in egocentric desires for pleasure, honor and quest for power. Our real identity is to be like our Lord in whose image we were created. To deny the self is to give up our natural inclination and embrace his qualities.
Jesus demands from us a more than ordinary form of life. It is not a life of keeping the commandments only, but to go beyond it. To keep the commandments, says St. Francis de Sales, is within the confines of man’s rational instinct and conforms to his reason and natural light. Not to still, not to lie, not to kill and so on, is to live according to man’s natural reason. However, to forsake all goods, to love poverty, to bear insult, contempt, persecution and to see martyrdom as a blessing, is not merely human but superhuman life. Francis de Sales.
Jesus demands two things “deny your self and pick up your cross”. One consists in mortifying the disordered appetites of the body, the other in restraining the irregular affections of the soul such as ambition, inordinate anger, self esteem, attachment to self interest and self will. Self denial is expressed most in offering up our self will. According to St. Anphonsus Liguori “to offer God the sacrifice of alms and penitential works, is to offer him only a part of oneself, but he who gives God his will by subjecting to obedience gives all”.
THE GREAT CONFLICT
There is a raging conflict between our real nature created in the image of God and the fallen nature we received from our parents. One is docile to the will of God the other insists on our self will. These two natures were identified by Fulton Sheen in Peter’s dual nomenclature: Simon son of Jona and Peter the rock. One depicts his human nature, the other the spiritual. One reflects the image of Adam the other the image of God. One in spiritual ecstasy saw Jesus as the Christ, the other in carnal emotions stood on the way of God’s will. Jesus called one blessed and the other Satan. This ugly Simon – Peter conflict rages in each of us. That is the fight of flesh against the spirit. The ultimate call on every one is to let the human nature die so that the image of God will rise in us.
Any faith-life based on public opinion is short of Christian faith. Personal knowledge of Jesus is necessary. It comes by studying the virtues of Jesus and making same our own. Christianity is about living the life of Christ, summarized in the following words of Paul “and the life I live now is not my own, Christ is living in me. Gal 2:20.” This answers fittingly the question “who do you say I am”. Personal knowledge of Jesus is to be in union of life with him.