Didn’t Understand the Saying

by Edmond Lo
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 2:12 , 17 - 20

James 3:16 - 4:3

Mark 9:30-37

In this Sunday’s gospel reading, Jesus continued to prepare his disciples for his death and resurrection, telling them, ““The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise” (Mk 9:31). Unfortunately “they did not understand the saying” (Mk 9:32).

But why didn’t they? Was it so hard to understand something already foretold everywhere in the Old Testament, by different people (especially the prophets), at different times, and in so many different ways?

Take the first reading as an example: “Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes” (Wis 2:17-18)

Doesn’t this ring a bell? Yes, that was exactly what happened to Jesus in the gospel (see Mt. 27:43)! My heart skipped a beat when I read this passage. Scripture cannot be clearer in revealing the trials and tribulations of the future Messiah through the inspired author of the Book of Wisdom some 100 years before he was even born!

Again: “Let us condemn him to a shameful death” (Wis 2:20). A shameful death was what awaited Jesus when he made his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to enlighten his disciples after his death, resurrection, and ascension. And so he did: We read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church on Pentecost in Acts 2. But before then – until their hearts were touched by the Holy Spirit - “they did not understand the saying” (Mk 9:32) in spite of all the “clues” that God had given them through the OT scriptures.

No wonder the resurrected Jesus had to exclaim in exasperation when he met the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who also “did not understand the saying”: "Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26).With the help of the Holy Spirit, they finally understood and said: “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32). Until our hearts are “burning within us”, until they are touched by the Holy Spirit, we will continue to “not understand the saying”.