1) Opening prayer
Lord God, merciful Father,
your Son came to set all people free,
to make the poor rich in faith and hope,
to make the rich aware of their poverty.
Unite us all in one trust in you
and in one common concern for one another;
give us all your attitude and that of Jesus,
of not distinguishing between ranks and classes and sexes
but of seeking together the freedom
brought us by Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 8,27-33
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, others Elijah, others again, one of the prophets.' 'But you,' he asked them, '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.
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; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter tried to rebuke him.
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.'
• Today’s Gospel speaks about Peter’s blindness who does not understand the proposal of Jesus when he speaks about suffering and of the Cross. Peter accepts Jesus as Messiah, but not a suffering Messiah. He is influenced by the “yeast of Herod and the Pharisees”, that is, by the propaganda of the government of that time in which the Messiah was a glorious Messiah. Peter seemed to be blind. He was not aware of anything, but wanted Jesus to be as he wished. To understand well the importance and weight of this blindness of Peter it is well to consider it in its literary context.
• Literary context: The Gospel of Mark transmits to us three announcements of the Passion and death of Jesus: the first one in Mark 8, 27-38; the second one in Mark 9, 30-37 and the third one in Mark 10, 32-45. This whole which goes up to Mark 10, 45, is a long instruction of Jesus to the disciples to help them to overcome the crisis produced by the Cross. The instruction is introduced by the healing of a blind man (Mk 8, 22-26) and at the end it is concluded with the healing of another blind man (Mk 10, 46-52). The two blind persons represent the blindness of the disciples. The healing of the first blind man was difficult. Jesus had to do it in two stages. The blindness of the disciples was also difficult. Jesus had to give a long explanation concerning the meaning of the Cross to help them understand why the cross was producing blindness in them. Let us consider closely the healing of the blind man:
• Mark 8, 22-26: The first healing of a bland man. They took a blind man before Jesus, asking Jesus to cure him. Jesus cures him, but in a different way. First, he takes him outside the village. Then he put some of his saliva on the eyes of the blind man and, laid his hands on him and asked him: Can you see anything? The man answered: I see persons; they look like trees that walk! He could only see one part. He exchanged trees for persons, or persons for trees! Jesus cures him only in the second time. This description of the cure of the blind man introduces the instruction to the disciples, in reality the blind man is Peter. He accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but a glorious Messiah. He saw only one part! He did not want the commitment of the Cross! The blindness of the disciples is also cured by Jesus, in different stages, not all at once.
• Mark 8, 27-30: The discovery of reality: Who do people say I am? Jesus asks: “Who do people say I am?” They answered expressing the different opinions: “John the Baptist”. “Elijah or one of the Prophets”. After having heard the opinions of others, Jesus asks: “And you who do you say I am?” Peter answers: “The Lord, the Christ, the Messiah!” That is, the Lord is the one whom the people are expecting! Jesus agrees with Peter, but forbids him to speak about that with the people. Why? Because at that time all expected the coming of the Messiah, but each one in his own way: some expected the king, others the priest, doctor, warrior, judge, prophet! Nobody seemed to be expecting the Messiah, Servant and Suffering, announced by Isaiah (Is 42, 1-9).
• Mark 8, 31-33: First announcement of the Passion. Then Jesus began to teach saying that he is the Messiah Servant and affirms that, as Messiah Servant announced by Isaiah, he will soon be condemned to death in carrying out his mission of justice (Is 49, 4-9; 53, 1-12). Peter is horrified; he calls Jesus apart to rebuke him. And Jesus said to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do.” Peter thought he had given the right answer. In fact, he had said the correct word: “You are the Christ!” But he does not give it the correct sense. Peter does not understand Jesus. He was like the blind man. He exchanged people for trees! The response of Jesus was very hard: “Get behind me, Satan!” Satan is a Hebrew word which means accuser, the one who leads others away from the way to God. Jesus does not allow anyone to lead him away from his mission. Literally the text says: “Get behind me, Satan!” Peter has to follow Jesus. He must not change things and intend that Jesus follows Peter.
4) For Personal Confrontation
• We all believe in Jesus. But some believe that Jesus is in one way, others in another way. Which is today the most common image that people have of Jesus? Which is the response which people today would give to Jesus’ question? And I, what answer do I give?
• What prevents us today from recognizing the Messiah in Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
I will praise Yahweh from my heart;
let the humble hear and rejoice.
Proclaim with me the greatness of Yahweh,
let us acclaim his name together. (Ps 34,2-3)