Fr. Damien Chong, (PCM)
P. Temp.: 08-09-58
P. Soll.: 08-09-61
Dom Albert Först, (Ger)
Episcopus emeritus Dourados, Brasil
P. Soll.: 17-09-51
How to follow Jesus
Care of the Disciples, healing of the Blind
Mark 8, 27-35
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
The text of the Gospel of this 24th Sunday of ordinary time presents the first announcement of the Passion and death of Jesus, to the Disciples, Peter trying to eliminate the Cross and the teaching of Jesus concerning the consequences of the Cross for those who wish to be His Disciples. Peter does not understand the proposal of Jesus concerning the Cross and suffering. He accepted Jesus as Messiah, not as a suffering Messiah. Peter was conditioned by the propaganda of the Government of that time which spoke of the Messiah only in terms of a glorious King. Peter seemed to be blind. He could not see anything and wished that Jesus could be like him, Peter desired and imagined. Today we all believe in Jesus. But all of us do not understand him in the same way. Who is Jesus for me? Today, which is the most common image of Jesus that people have? Today, is there a propaganda that tries to interfere in our way of seeing Jesus? Who am I for Jesus?
b) A division of the text to help in the reading:
Mark 8, 27-28: The question of Jesus concerning the opinion of the people and the response of the Disciples
Mark 8, 29-30: The question of Jesus and the opinion of his Disciples
Mark 8, 31-32ª: The first announcement of the Passion and death
Mark 8, 32b-33: The conversation between Jesus and Peter
Mark 8, 34-35: The conditions to follow Jesus
c) The text:
27 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?' 28 And they told him, 'John the Baptist, others Elijah, others again, one of the prophets.' 29 'But you,' he asked them, 'who do you say I am?' Peter spoke up and said to him, 'You are the Christ.' 30 And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of man was destined to suffer grievously, and 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; 32 and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter tried to rebuke him. 33 But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do.' 34 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. 35 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.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) Which point in this text pleased you the most or what struck you the most? Why?
b) Which is the opinion of the people and of Peter on Jesus? Why do Peter and the people think in this way?
c) Which is the relationship between the healing of the blind man, described before (Mk 8, 22-26) and the conversation of Jesus with Peter and the other Disciples?
d) What does Jesus ask from those who want to follow him?
e) What prevents us today from recognizing and assuming the project of Jesus?
5. For those who wish to deepen more on the theme
a) Context of yesterday and of today:
i) In the text of Mark 8, 27 the long instruction of Jesus to his Disciples begins, and this goes on until the passage of Mark 10, 45. At the beginning of this instruction as well as at the end of it, Mark places the healing of the blind man: Mark 8, 22-26 and Mark 10, 46-52. At the beginning the healing of the blind man was not easy and Jesus had to heal him in two stages. The healing of the blindness of the Disciples was also difficult. Jesus had to give them a long explanation concerning the significance of the Cross in order to help them to see the reality, because it was the cross which brought about the blindness in them. At the end, the healing of the blind man Bartimaeus is the fruit of faith in Jesus. It suggests the ideal of the Disciple: to believe in Jesus and to accept Him as He is, and not as I want or imagine.
ii) In the year 70, when Mark wrote, the situation of the communities was not easy. There was much suffering, many were the crosses. Six years before, in 64, Nero, the emperor had decreed the first great persecution, killing many Christians. In the year 70, in Palestine, Jerusalem, was about to be destroyed by the Romans. In other countries, a great tension between the converted Jews and the non converted was beginning. The greatest difficulty was the Cross of Jesus. The Jews thought that a Crucified person could not be the Messiah greatly expected by the people, because the Law affirmed that anyone who had been crucified had to be considered as cursed by God (Dt 21, 22-23).
b) Commentary on the text:
Mark 8, 22.26: Healing of the blind man
They bring him a blind man, and ask Jesus to cure him. Jesus cures him, but in a different way. First, he takes him out of the village, then he puts some saliva on his eyes, imposes the hands and asks him: Do you see anything? And the man answers: I see men, because I see like tress that walk! He saw only in part. He sees tress and interchanges them for people, and the people for trees! It is only in the second time that Jesus heals the blind man and forbids him to go back to the village. Jesus did not want an easy propaganda! This description of the healing of the blind man is an introduction to the instruction which will be given to the Disciples, because in reality, Peter and the other Disciples were blind!. And the blindness of the Disciples is cured by Jesus, even though not in the first time. They accepted Jesus as Messiah, but only as a gloriousMessiah. They only noticed one part! They did not want the commitment of the Cross! They interchangedtrees for persons!
Mark 8, 27-30. TO SEE: the discovery of reality
Jesus asks: “Whom do people say that I am?” They answer indicating the diverse opinions of the people: “John the Baptist”, “Elijah or one of the prophets”. After having heard the opinions of others , Jesus asks: “And you, whom do you say that I am?” Peter answers: “You are the Christ, the Messiah!” That is: “The Lord is the one whom the people are expecting!” Jesus agrees with Peter, but forbids to speak about this with the people. Why does Jesus forbid them this? Then, everyone was waiting for the coming of the Messiah, but each one in his own way, according to the class and the social position which he had: some expected him to come as King, others as Priest. Doctor, Warrior, Judge or Prophet! Nobody seemed to wait for the Messiah as Servant, as announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9).
Mark 8, 31-33. TO JUDGE: clarification of the situation: first announcement of the Passion
Jesus begins to teach that he is the Messiah Servant announced by Isaiah, and will be taken prisoner and be killed during the exercise of his mission of justice (Is 49, 4-9; 53, 1-12). Peter is filled with fear, he takes Jesus aside and tries to rebuke him.
And Jesus responds to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do!” Peter thought he had given the right answer. And, in fact he says the just word: “You are the Christ!” But he does not give this word the right significance. Peter does not understand Jesus. He is like the blind man of Bethsaida. He interchanged the people with the trees! Jesus’ answer was very hard. He calls Peter Satan! Satan is a Hebrew word which means accuser, the one who withdraws others from the path of God. Jesus does not allow anyone to draw him away from his mission. Literally, Jesus says: “Get behind me!” That is, Peter has to go behind Jesus, has to follow Jesus and accept the way or direction which Jesus indicates. Peter wanted to be the first one and to indicate the direction. He wanted a Messiah according to his measure and according to his desire.
Mark 8, 34-37. TO ACT: conditions to follow
Jesus draws conclusions which are still valid today: He who wants to follow me, let him take up his cross and follow me! At that time, the cross was the death sentence which the Roman Empire imposed to the marginalized. To take up the cross and to carry it following Jesus meant, then, to accept to be marginalized by the unjust system which legitimised injustice. It indicated a radical and total rupture. As Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Galatians: “But as for me, it is out of the question that I should boast at all, except of the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal 6, 14). The Cross is not fatalism, nor is it an exigency from the Father. The Cross is the consequence of the commitment, freely assumed by Jesus to reveal the Good News that Jesus is Father and that, therefore, all have to be accepted and treated as brothers and sisters. Because of this revolutionary announcement, he was persecuted and he was not afraid to surrender his life. There is no proof of a greater love than to give one’s life for the brother.
c) Extending the information:
Between the two healings of the blind men (Mk 8, 22-26 and Mark 10, 46-52), is found the long instruction of Jesus to his Disciples, to help them to understand the significance of the Cross and its consequences for life (Mark 8, 27 to 10, 45). It seems to be a document, a certain type of catechism, made by Jesus himself. It speaks about the cross in the life of the Disciple. It is a type of a schema of instruction:
Mk 8, 22-26: Healing of a blind man
Mk 8, 277-38: 1st announcement of the Passion
Mk 9, 1-29: Instruction on the Messiah Servant
Mk 9, 30-37: 2nd Announcement of the Passion
Mk 9, 38 to 10, 31: Instructions on conversation
Mk 10, 32-45: 3rd Announcement of the Passion
Mk 10, 46-52: Healing of a blind man.
As we can see, the instruction is formed by three announcements of the Passion. The first one is in Mark 8, 27-38, the second one in Mark 9, 30-37 and the third one in Mark 10, 32-45. Between the first one and the second one, there are a series of instructions to help them to understand that Jesus is the Messiah Servant (Mk 9, 1-29). Between the second and the third one, a series of instructions which clarify the conversion which has to take place in the life of those who accept Jesus as Messiah Servant (Mk 9, 38 to 10, 31).
The background of the whole instruction is the road from Galilee to Jerusalem, from the lake to the cross. Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem, where he will be put to death. From the beginning and up to the end of this instruction, Mark informs that Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem (Mk 8, 27; 9, 30.33; 10, 1, 17.32), where he will find the cross.
In each one of these three announcements, Jesus speaks about his Passion, Death and Resurrection as part of the project of Jesus: “The Son of man has to suffer grievously, and 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” (Mk 8, 31; 9, 31; 10, 33). The expression has indicates that the cross had already been announced in the prophecies (cfr. Lk 24, 26).
Each one of these three announcements of the Passion is accompanied by gestures or words of misunderstanding on the part of the Disciples. In the first one, Peter does not want the cross and criticises Jesus (Mk 8, 32). In the second one, the Disciples do not understand Jesus, they are afraid and wish to be greater (Mk 9, 32-34). In the third one, they are afraid, they are apprehensive (Mk 10, 32), and they seek promotions (Mk 10, 35-37). And this because in the communities for which Mark writes his Gospel there were many persons like Peter: they did not want the cross! They were like the Disciples: they did not understand the cross, they were afraid and wanted to be the greatest; they lived in fear and desired promotions. Each one of these three announcements gives them a word of orientation on the part of Jesus, criticising the lack of understanding of the Disciples and teaching how their behaviour should be. Thus, in the first announcement, Jesus demands from those who wish to follow him to carry the cross behind him, to lose their life out of love for him and for his Gospel, not to be ashamed of him and of his word (Mk 8, 34-38). In the second one he demands: to become the servant of all, to receive the children, the little ones, as if they were Jesus himself (Mk 9, 35-37). In the third one he demands: to drink the cup that he will drink, not to imitate the powerful who exploit the others, but to imitate the Son of Man who has not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life for the redemption of many (Mk 10, 35-45).
The total understanding of the following of Jesus is not obtained from the theoretical instruction, but from the practical commitment, walking with him along the way of service, from Galilee to Jerusalem. Those who insist in maintaining the idea of Peter, that is, of the glorious Messiah without the cross, will not understand and will not succeed in assuming an attitude of the true disciple. They will continue to be blind, interchanging people for trees (Mk 8, 24). Because without the cross it is impossible to understand who Jesus is and what it means to follow Jesus.
The road of the following is the way of dedication, of abandonment, of service, of availability, of acceptance of conflict, knowing that there will be the resurrection. The cross is not an accident on the way, but forms part of the road. Because in the world, organized beginning with egoism, love and service can exist only in the crucified! The one who gives his life in the service of others, disturbs those who live attached to privileges and he suffers.
6. Prayer of Psalm 25 (24)
Adoration I offer, Yahweh,
to you, my God.
But in my trust in you do not put me to shame,
let not my enemies gloat over me.
Calling to you, none shall ever be put to shame,
but shame is theirs who groundlessly break faith.
Direct me in your ways,
Yahweh, and teach me your paths.
Encourage me to walk in your truth
and teach me since you are the God who saves me.
For my hope is in you all day long
-- such is your generosity, Yahweh.
Goodness and faithful love have been yours for ever, Yahweh,
do not forget them.
Hold not my youthful sins against me,
but remember me as your faithful love dictates.
Integrity and generosity are marks of Yahweh
for he brings sinners back to the path.
Judiciously he guides the humble,
instructing the poor in his way.
Kindness unfailing and constancy mark all Yahweh's paths,
for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
Let my sin, great though it is, be forgiven,
Yahweh, for the sake of your name.
Men who respect Yahweh, what of them?
He teaches them the way they must choose.
Neighbours to happiness will they live,
and their children inherit the land.
Only those who fear Yahweh have his secret
and his covenant, for their understanding.
Permanently my eyes are on Yahweh,
for he will free my feet from the snare.
Quick, turn to me, pity me,
alone and wretched as I am!
Relieve the distress of my heart,
bring me out of my constraint.
Spake a glance for my misery and pain,
take all my sins away.
Take note how countless are my enemies,
how violent their hatred for me.
Unless you guard me and rescue me I shall be put to shame,
for you are my refuge.
Virtue and integrity be my protection,
for my hope, Yahweh, is in you.
Ransom Israel, O God,
from all its troubles.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.