Reflection on 24th Sunday: 12th September 2021

Who do you say that I am?”

 ‘Who we say Jesus is has everything to do with who and how we are and will be. In some ways our answer says as much or more about us than Jesus. We are always living into the question, moving from simply knowing about Jesus to knowing him. It’s not that Jesus changes. We do. We not only discover Jesus anew, we discover ourselves anew.’1 Peter’s response, “You are the Christ.,”  leads to another question: What do we mean by ‘the Christ’?

‘Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ is a title, meaning the Anointed One, which was Peter’s understanding of who Jesus is. But a study of Scripture, Tradition and the experience of many mystics reveals a much larger, broader and deeper meaning to ‘the Christ.’ The three Synoptic Gospels are largely talking about Jesus, the historical figure who healed and taught and lived in human history; whereas John’s Gospel presents the trans-historical ‘Christ’ (which is why so very few stories in John coincide with Matthew, Mark, and Luke). The prologue to John’s Gospel (John 1:1-11) is not talking about Jesus; it’s talking about the Christ. All that came to be had life in him. The entire sweep of the meaning of the Anointed One, the Christ, includes us and includes all of creation since the beginning of time. St Paul never met the historical Jesus and hardly ever quotes Jesus directly. In almost all of Paul’s preaching and writing, he is referring to the Eternal Christ Mystery or the Risen Christ rather than Jesus of Nazareth before his death and resurrection. The Risen Christ is the only Jesus that Paul ever knew! When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are believing in something much bigger than the historical incarnation that we call Jesus. In Jesus the Timeless Christ became time bound.’2   James Finley makes use of poetic language and symbolism to beautifully describe our experience as we grow in awareness of who Christ is:   

Let’s say you’re at the ocean and you’re just ankle deep. It’s true you’re only ankle deep, but it’s also true you’re in the ocean. It’s also true if you just keep going, it will get plenty deep soon enough. Now here’s something deeper. What if the middle of the ocean is infinitely deep? And what if the infinite depth of the ocean infinitely gives the infinity of the totality of its depths to your ankle-deep degree of realization of it?

Adapted: [1] Michael  Marsh   [2] Richard Rohr (from his various writings)

Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him. “John the Baptist,” they said, “others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.”  “But you,” he asked, “who do you say I am?” Peter spoke up and said to him, “You are the Christ.” And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him. 

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him.  But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan!  Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it “