12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Who Is Jesus For Us?”
Beginning from the time of the apostles, people have expressed many opinions on the person of Jesus. Who is really for the people of our time and for our communities: the Messiah or one of the precursors? The question is not out of place, because even many Christians, who do proclaim their profession of faith in an exact and impeccable way, haven’t in fact understood who Jesus really is.
The first reading tells us the story of a man who lost his life, was killed and only after his death did people realize that he was just a man. This is a prophecy of what happened to Jesus.
The second reading invites us, through the image of the dress, to dress ourselves with the deeds of love done by Jesus.
The Gospel shows the way of the true Messiah: he is one who willingly gives up his life for people. To believe that Jesus is the Messiah is to follow him along his ‘Way’.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Zechariah 12: 10-11; 13:1.
The prophet Zechariah was anticipating a new world order, something like what we talk about today; a world of peace and justice, a world without barriers and sufferings. When the new ‘Spirit’ would come upon his people it would bring with it ‘clear vision’ and once they would see clearly; surely they would lament their former ways.
This passage from the Book of Zechariah is rather mysterious. It speaks of a ‘just and innocent man who was pieced’ and lets us understand that this crime was committed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem. But the Lord says in the reading, that he sent immediately on the guilty people a profound feeling of regret for the evil they had done. All repented and looked on the one they had pierced. There was general weeping and mourning, like parents mourning the loss of the eldest child, or like the mourning of the inhabitants of Megiddo when imploring rain from their god Haddad Rimmon. In Megiddo the pagans honoured a divinity called Haddad Rimmon with songs of lamentation. Zechariah predicts that the God of Israel might realistically be honoured in the same way should the people come to know their sin.
Who is this ‘mysterious man’ and why was he killed? The prophet who lived two to three hundred years before Christ was certainly referring to some dramatic event of his time. We do not know anything more. John the evangelist recognizes the potential of this prophecy to speak of the ‘Piercing of Jesus on the Cross’ (Jn. 19:37). Now all the men of the earth look to Christ as their Saviour who was killed and then ‘Pierced’ on the Cross. This episode should stimulate our reflection. Why are the upright always persecuted? Why should those who defend freedom, who promote brotherliness and peace, end up always being ‘pierced’? Why is it that even in our Christian communities we are always late in understanding that the ‘one’ who seemed to disturb our quiet peace of mind, was in fact a prophet or a messenger urging us to be more faithful to the Gospel? When these liberators are dead, then those responsible will see the evil done and weep. But then it is too late!
It is the blood and water pierced from the side of Christ that would be a ‘fountain of forgiveness’ (Jn. 19:34). Centuries of saints and mystics, their eyes opened, have wept before the Cross. The ‘Gift of Tears’, as Teresa of Avila called it, comes to those who truly see.
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9.
The Psalm is traditionally attributed to David as he campaigned in the desert (1 Sm. 22). He knows how God is the remedy for human restlessness, and that he will never find a better protector than the God who holds them in his right hand. Christ would pray this prayer as he accepted the necessity of his coming death.
Paul writes to the Galatians with great indignation. He has heard that his authority has been undermined by subsequent teachers, and this young community is in spiritual disarray. Yet, Paul does not write to them just to vent his anger, he provides a thorough reiteration of his basic teaching, including these kindly words: “Each one of you is a child of God”; one of God’s own, beloved and provided for.
For Paul, faith in Christ, which is internal, finds external expression in Baptism. This is the time for wearing new clean garments, and in Galatians, these are symbols of purity, the Christ that we ‘put on’ in Baptism. In the eyes of God, all those who wear Christ, are equally his children. Human distinctions remain between Jew and Greek, between slave and those free, between male and female. Paul insists to an end to the ‘divisions among them’. All must be ‘surrendered to the same Christ and are therefore one in Christ’.
God does not recognize differences in those who are ‘in Christ’, who live lives of union with his Son. All such share in the promise made long ago to Abraham. Have we really overcome all these distinctions in our communities?
With the Gospel of today we are about to enter into a new phase in the life of Jesus. Jesus has been active in Galilee. He has now come as far north to Caeserea Phillippi and soon after he will start his journey to Jerusalem. After a time of ministry he will be arrested, will suffer and die and rise from the dead.
Jesus is at a turning point in his life. He is openly recognized as the Messiah but at the same time reveals himself as a ‘different Messiah’ from what everybody expected. It is out of an experience of deep prayer that Jesus asks the key question and the disciples receive the revealed answer. “Who do the crowds say that I am”? After receiving various answers, including Peter’s, Jesus makes clear that as Messiah, he “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then Jesus also makes it clear that his followers were to take up their cross daily and follow him.
It is always easier to answer a question by giving other people’s opinion. The disciples did not find it difficult to tell Jesus what others thought of him, namely that he was ‘John the Baptist’ who had been killed by Herod and had risen from the dead, or ‘Elijah’. Since Elijah had not died but was taken up in a chariot of fire, he was expected to return to complete the work of bringing people back to God shortly before the age of the Messiah as he had done in the 8th century BC.
These opinions are appropriate and understandable because Jesus’ ministry was in line with what the prophets had done. Identifying himself with the prophecy of Isaiah had almost cost him his life (Lk. 4:16-30). When he restored the widow’s son to life people acclaimed him as a prophet (Lk. 7:16). Calling Jesus a prophet is only half the truth. Prophets prepare the way for somebody else; but Jesus is the one whose way was prepared by all the other prophets. The homily in Hebrews, popularly referred to as an epistle, puts it clearly when it says that God’s revelation through the prophets over the years has been varied and fragmented and is now ‘complete’ in Jesus (Heb. 1:1-2).
Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. But the crowds are not ready to respond to that challenge of commitment in faith and prefer to wait for another. Where the crowds had many opinions about Jesus, Peter has one single, straightforward answer. Jesus is the one that God has anointed and sent for our redemption. Jesus approves of Peter’s answer but adds a caution: the Messiah will suffer many things, will die and then rise again.
To become a practicing Christian is a great commitment! Some see it as a radical choice to take up the ‘Cross’ and follow Jesus every day. The specification ‘every day’ is found only in Luke. To some, the Cross is a symbol of humiliating punishment for criminals and an expression of powerlessness, but Jesus made it a symbol of victory of life over death. To follow Jesus is a ‘commitment for life’ and has to be lived out in the ordinary situations of everyday life, in good and in bad times alike.
What the crowds say about Jesus is never as important as what we say about him. Who do we say Jesus is? Is he our Lord, or just the Lord of our religion? Is he our Saviour? Or a Saviour hung on a Cross on the wall of our Parish? Is he our Teacher, or a great teacher of ancient times? Does he heal us through the Sacraments, or was his healing just for the lucky lepers of the first century? We can argue the theology all day, or for all time. But the only Jesus that really matters for us is the one in our hearts.
Knowing the right answers of our faith is not enough. We have to be ready to be taught daily by Jesus on our faith journey. He does not promise us success but invites us to deny ourselves and work for justice in our community and society, as the way to true happiness and freedom of heart.
The journey to Jerusalem, which begins shortly in the Year C liturgy, is seen as a route that all of us who are followers have to take no matter where we live. It is not a journey plotted through a map; it is an inward journey that is plotted through our experiences. For each of us the journey to God is following in the footsteps of Christ. Let us pray today for God’s grace to help us prepare for this journey with Jesus.
Jesus said, “Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or a walking stick”. What we need to take with us is our gratuitous love!
When sufferings (the Cross) come our way our burdens are lessened when we accept them willingly as sharing in the life of Christ.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Like the inhabitants of Megiddo when pleading for rain from their god Haddad Rimmon, many pagans seem to honour their divinities in a more sincere manner than people who call themselves Christians, honour their God. How sincere and devoted are our prayers? Jesus asks his apostles and us, “Could you not keep watch for one hour” (Mk 14:37)? Can we not spend one hour with Jesus in prayer or in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament or in front of the Tabernacle?
Mon. … The prophet Zechariah prophesises from the dark days after the exile when God seemed so far away from the hearts of the people that changes would come. God will be again acknowledged, and people would sincerely repent of their sinfulness and would be forgiven. It is He who has been pierced; and it is the blood and water from His side that would be a ‘fountain of mercy and forgiveness’ to all who seek it.
Tues. … Like David do we truly believe that God is the remedy for our restlessness and trying to find a true meaning for our lives? Will we ever find a better protector than God who holds us up in his right hand? We need to develop our trust in God to the same level as David’s.
Wed. … Paul has stated in today’s second reading that each one of us is a child of God. Has our baptism found faith in Christ? Have our clothes been washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb? Have we overcome the evil that separates us from the love of one another and for the love of God?
Thurs. … Practicing Christians truly believe that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and have responded to the challenges that our faith puts to us. How effective have we been in taking up the challenges of putting God first in our lives and loving one another as Jesus loves us?
Frid. … To be a Christian is a radical choice these days in a world dominated by many idols and temptations for self and the easy life. Picking up our cross and the crosses of others goes against the norms of our society. To follow Jesus is a difficult commitment for life and has to be ‘lived out in the ordinary situations of each day, in good and bad times alike’. Sharing in Christ’s suffering is an essential part of our discipleship and purification.
Sat. … Knowing the right answers of our faith is not enough. We have to live our faith daily with Jesus on our faith journey. The ‘journey to Jerusalem’ is a route all Christians must follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is a true spiritual journey in his Way, his Truth and his Life that we need to imitate. Jesus asks each one of us every day, “Who do you say I am”? If we truly believe that ‘He’ is our God, what then prevents us from following in his every step?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, let us today reflect on Your Son’s question put to each one of us, “Who do you say I am”? May we come to realize that the discipleship to which he summons his followers is directly contrary to the supposed values that shape much of the world today. Through witnessing to his life and his values may we find our true lives in Christ.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.