This weekend’s Gospel passage is from Mark 8, 27-35. It is a passage which takes place, literally, at the very center of the Gospel. All that has happened in the previous chapters and verses of St. Mark’s Gospel has been a prelude to this encounter – and all that will happen afterward will be the fulfillment of the same.
Last Sunday we saw the story of the healing of a man who was deaf and mute. It was the beginning of this central moment in the Gospel. From this point on, Jesus will tell the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem in order to suffer, die, and rise again. The healing of the man in last week’s Gospel was a set-up, so to speak, for the events which unfold in today’s account up in Caesarea. That healing pointed to the fact that we must learn to listen, hear, and understand the meaning of Christ’s life and message. And that we must then learn how to share our experience effectively with others. It is not enough to have heard the message; it also has to be shared and communicated with others – that is what Evangelization is all about.
With regard to today’s encounter between Jesus and His disciples at Caesarea, this moment represents a high point and, again, a turning point in St. Mark’s Gospel. It sits right at the center, at the heart of the 16 chapters of the Gospel. Although Jesus is recognized for the first time as “the Messiah” (the Anointed One of God), He tells His disciples that He will be rejected by the religious and civic leaders of His own people, He will undergo terrible sufferings, He will suffer a horrible and shameful death by execution on a Cross, and at the end He will rise on the third day. They don’t understand much of this – and who could blame them?
The rest of the Gospel, however, will show us how the first followers of the Lord had to discover – very painfully at times – just what kind of Messiah Jesus was going to be. They won’t know this and they will not see its compelling beauty until after the Resurrection. Is it true that we are still learning what kind of Messiah He is? Yes! We are still learning that it is through death that we, too, rise to new life. Ponder these words as you prepare to come to Mass this weekend: “If anyone wants to be my disciple, then he must to take his Cross and come after me.” Central to the Gospel is this: Jesus’ Way has to be our way.
Let us pray. “Father, though your Son was sinless, He suffered willingly for sinners. Though innocent, He accepted death to save the whole human family. By His dying He has destroyed our sins. By His rising He has raised us up to holiness of life. We cry out to you for our world, our nation, and our parish. Grant us your healing and your hope. Keep us faithful to the Way of your Son, who lives and reigns with you forever and ever. Amen.