Who is Jesus to us?

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Zechariah 12:10-11;13:1

Thus says the LORD: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition; and they shall look on him whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem shall be as great as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.

Galatians 3:26-29

Brothers and sisters: Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s children, heirs according to the promise.

Luke 9:18-24

Once when Jesus was praying by himself, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He scolded them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

To our modern world and our present culture, the messages of today’s Gospel are both the “stumbling block” and the “foolishness” (cf 1 Cor 1:23). Why?

Let us look at the first stumbling block, a question from Jesus: “Who do the crowds say that I am?” What does the world (the crowds) today say about Jesus? Even among those who accept the historicity of Jesus, various labels are applied to Him but unlike the crowds in Jesus’ time, these labels do not correspond to their expectations about Jesus, rather, they are opinions about who Jesus was. These opinions, largely influenced and shaped by secularism, have made Jesus’ identity more fictitious than factual.

Now let us take a look at the second one: “Who do you say that I am?” What do the disciples (Christians) say about Jesus today? Apart from the knowledge acquired in catechesis or bible study class and the standard answers to the titles of Jesus, what do we know about Him in person? Who is He to me, to us, to every one of His disciples throughout history? Our answers will be, according to St John Paul II, “the response of the rational and free human person to the word of the living God…….a kind of examination on the maturity of the faith.” (World Youth Day, Aug 19th, 2000).

Let us move on to the third message, a kind of advice or rather, an invitation: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” What a strange way of inviting His followers! By saying “yes” to Him, we have to say “no” to ourselves and as if it is not foolish enough, we have to take up the cross daily. How many of us would accept this kind of invitation which so contradicts our current philosophy of self-worth and self-reliance. Is it not true that human natural instinct is to seek comfort and pleasure? Why then do we have to carry the cross and make life miserable?

But the most foolish message seems to be this one: “He who would save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will save it.” What does this “saving” and “losing” mean? Why does it have to be so serious as to necessitate the losing of one’s life? This is not what we learn. Our world educates us to win, to gain, to strive for the top in whatever we do. Individualism and rationalism, not to exclude the much celebrated “I” concept, teach us to say yes “for my sake” when it means for me myself, not for Jesus or others. How come Jesus is so hard and harsh, making life so difficult for us? Why cannot we be like others, just live a good life by being nice and complacent?

Then in the middle of our grumbling and protesting, perhaps we should once more confront ourselves with this fundamental question: “Who is Jesus to us?” Not until we find the right answer, the above messages will continue to be the “stumbling block” and the “foolishness” to us.

Posted: June 19, 2016

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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