Saturday of the twelfth week in ordinary time, Lk9,18-24

Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am” (Luke 9:20)?

The apostles have been with Jesus for several months. They have witnessed several miracles that Jesus has performed before their eyes; they have heard multiple speeches in which they have sensed that Jesus is doing things differently than the Pharisees and scribes, the leaders and teachers of the nation. The crowds follow Jesus and are taught by him. In these circumstances, a dialogue is heard between Jesus and the disciples when Jesus asks, “Who do the crowds think I am” (Lk. 9:18)? Those around Jesus asked similar questions: who is this man? And the apostles answer that they consider Jesus to be John the Baptist, others to be Elijah, and still, others say that one of the prophets of old has risen from the dead (cf. Lk. 9:19); this answer is the answer of the crowds. John the Baptist had recently been made to stand in his prison by Herod. Some consider Jesus to be John risen from the dead (cf. Mt. 14:2). Others see in Jesus the prophet Elijah, who was taken up on a chariot of fire into heaven (cf. 2 Cor. 2:11), and that this Elijah is yet to come (cf. Mt. 11:14) into the world. Others consider Jesus to be one of the prophets of old. Opinions, views, and attitudes about Jesus are different. Jesus is not interested in what people think of him and who he is. We know from the gospel that Jesus did not care what the masses or individuals thought of him or who they thought he was. Jesus came into the world with a clear purpose and mission. He came to reveal to the world the love of God for human beings. Jesus wants to be the Savior and Redeemer of every person. And in connection with his mission, he chose disciples who would carry out his command in the power of the Holy Spirit at the end of his mission on earth, after his ascension: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them…” (Mt 28:19). Therefore Jesus turns to his disciples, “And whom do you say that I am” (Lk 9:20)? The question is specific. Jesus has not yet told the apostles everything about himself. The apostles did not yet know the revelation of God. It is important to note that it is the apostle Peter who answers the question, “As the Messiah of God” (Lk 9:20). This answer deserves attention. Peter’s confession is still in the spirit of the Old Testament, in the idea of the awaited Messiah. Jesus explains what he expects. Jesus tells the disciples of the New Testament Messiah who “must suffer many things, the elders, the chief priests and the scribes will reject him, they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise from the dead” (Lk. 9:22). This is something entirely new in looking at the expected and predicted Messiah, even though the prophets foretold that the Messiah would suffer. Jesus speaks these words so that those who believe in his mission will cooperate with God’s will, gaining the merit to enter the kingdom of God. The grandparents in paradise were forbidden to eat of the tree. Jesus is speaking on our terms about what God rightly expects of each of us. The remark of the Evangelist St. Luke, “And he said to all” (Lk 9:23), should not be omitted on our part. It refers to all people, not only to believers, not only to some select, chosen group but to “all.” And the note reads, “Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24). Exact words, a solemn demand, a decisive moment. Why?

The philosophy, ethics, and mindset of today’s man consider himself the center of the world. Man forgets that God gave him the command to subdue the earth (cf. Gen. 1:28-30), but He also gave him the power to love God, neighbor, and self. God has left man the freedom with which He endowed him at creation. But man is afraid of renunciation, self-denial, control, death… Man only wants to live, to live well, to enjoy as much and as well as possible, to get the most, the most valuable and the most pleasant… Jesus reminds us that our mission on earth is to obtain the soul’s salvation. Jesus does not forbid us to have, to possess, to enjoy, to prove something, to know, to know, to enjoy, but it must not interfere with God’s will for each of us. We are called and addressed to be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who will remind and teach us all that is necessary for our salvation. To close our eyes, not hear, and make ourselves mute or deaf to the Spirit’s address, is dishonest on our part toward God and deserves to be rightly punished. Jesus, on the other hand, gave us an example of love. He also said these words: “Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 16:24-25). Man is to be aware of his freedom and responsibility for the salvation of his soul and the souls entrusted to him. Jesus teaches that man must learn to renounce to love more. The Lord Jesus does not object to Peter’s calling Him the Messiah. Still, immediately Jesus points out our relationship by what and how we are to maintain our relationship with the Messiah. Yes, it is not pleasant, but this is the way of Christ. Who loved a person more than Jesus? And so he rightly expects us to reciprocate his love. In suffering, we must not forget the resurrection. If we want to share in the glory of Christ, we must take his path, which he invites us to do today in the Gospel. Jesus walked this way and did not leave us alone. He alone is our Guide, Counselor, and Teacher. The goal is excellent, and the journey must be commensurate with it. God is. He gives to each of us only what we can bear, what we can do, to receive the promised reward. We are not to compare ourselves to one another; it is not honest of us to ask questions: why me, why this, why this, why that, and so on. Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid of what He asks and expects of us. Let us ask ourselves: Would God, who is Love, want something wrong for me? God the Father did not spare His Son for us; He loved us so much. And for us, it must not be a platitude to equate the length of life on earth with eternity, the goal God has prepared for those who love Him. Are we to waste our time unnecessarily with wrong philosophies, mindsets, and attitudes? Deprive ourselves of the merits, means, and graces of salvation? Having laid our hands on the plow at baptism, let us not look back. Knowing, believing, and accepting Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…” (Lk 9:23), we want to give the answer that Jesus expects, which benefits us. Jesus expects us to take up the way of the cross, the way that leads to eternal glory, to the victory that is Christ.

Are you familiar with the Immaculate Family magazine? A substantial part of the magazine is the testimonies of those who believe and yet suffer much.
Under the sign of Mary K., we read, “I was in confession. I am suffering terribly in my soul because of my alcoholic husband. It cannot even be described what Satan can do when a person obeys him. It doesn’t bother me so much that he spends all his money on alcohol. He doesn’t even pay attention to his family. What bothers me is the horrible talk Satan spawns in his heart. He curses everything holy, blaspheming God. Divorce? Stay with him? These thoughts clung to me more and more each day. With an aching heart, I poured out my pain to the priest. And him? He pointed me to the cross hanging in the confessional and quietly said: “Look. He didn’t come down from the cross until He was finished on it.” At that moment, it was as if the Lord Jesus was standing before me. It was not the priest’s words I was listening to, but Jesus’ words, “I have not come down from the cross… Would you not sacrifice yourself for alcoholics?” After the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I went to the altar. I gazed into the face of Christ. His words to St. Margaret Alacoque resounded in my soul, “Behold, the Heart that loves so much and receives only ingratitude for its reward!” “No, Lord! No! Henceforth, thou must not weep with us. My cross is indeed terrible. The cross of an alcoholic man… I humbly beseech thee: Don’t spare me from now on! I thank you for the inspiration of our priest and for pointing out your cross to me. I am learning from you: One must die on the cross.” (Family of the Immaculate, 2/98)

How many people are looking at us? And how many people are we looking at? Our life and their life. What answer does it give to the question that Jesus asks not only of the apostles in today’s Gospel but also of us, “And whom do you think I am” (Lk 9:20)? Our life journeys – more deeds than words – answer. We think about this today before we stand before Jesus, our Judge.

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