24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON SEPTEMBER 12, 2021
(R. Isaiah 50:5-9aPsalm 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; R. 2: James 2:14-18; Gospel: Mk 8:27-35)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

CAN WE HANDLE THE NEWS?

A 65-year-old man had a rare heart condition that he could not handle good news and he could not handle bad news; either of them could give him a heart attack. It happened that he won a lottery amounting to $50 million. His wife, who first heard the news did not know how to pass the news across to him. She decided to employ the help of his friend, who is a clinical psychologist. The friend arrived and made it seem like a casual visit. The clinical psychologist began, “Let’s say you won $1000 from the lottery; what would you do with it?” The 65-year-old man said, “Oh, I would pay off my credit card bills.” The psychologist asked, “What if you won $10,000, what would you do with it?” The man said, “I would make a down payment for a new car.” Finally, the psychologist asked, “What if you won $50 million?” The man paused for a moment and said, “I will keep half for myself and give you the other half.” On hearing this, the psychologist had a heart attack.

Today’s gospel passage is a turning point in the gospel according to Mark, in the public ministry of Jesus. Geographically, Jesus had been around Galilee, teaching and performing miracles. But from this point, Jesus is facing Jerusalem; forward ever backward never! In Jerusalem, he will face his passion, his death, and his resurrection. Half way into his journey, he turns to his apostles, and asks “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The apostles share the various answers they heard from people. None of the answers was correct. Jesus decides to ask directly, “[Forget about what other people are saying;] who do you say I am?” Simon Peter gives the right answer, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the Living God.”

One would have expected Jesus at this point to have said, “Good job! Now, go say to the whole world that I am the Messiah!” Instead of that, Jesus does something strange, he warns them to tell no one about him. Why is Jesus doing this? Is this not the news that everyone has been expecting? Remember, the Israelites had their kings many years in the past, but for most part of six centuries in the past, they lost their kings as they were overthrown by foreign nations. But the Israelites, at this point, are relying on the promise that God would give them a new king, an anointed One from the family of David, who would rule forever. Now, Peter has identified the new King/Messiah in Jesus. Why should he not tell everyone? It is because Jesus knows that the Jews are not ready at this point for the news, it is because Jesus knows that the Jews are not able to handle the news, it is because of their wrong understanding of the mission of the Messiah.

In the past, the kings were all anointed, so the title, Christ, Messiah, or Anointed was used for them. Also, such kings were warriors who fought physical battles. The Jews at this point are still under the impression that the new Messiah would follow the footsteps of the past kings to go into physical battles. Jesus knows that the Jews are not ready to accept the mission of the Messiah and so Jesus is taking his time to teach them gradually. You can see that even Peter who answers today that Jesus is the Messiah does not have the correct understanding of the mission of the Messiah. So, Jesus goes on to explain, “Because I’m the Messiah, I am going to Jerusalem where I will face betrayal, passion, death and resurrection.” To show that Peter does not understand the implication of Jesus being the Messiah, Peter tries to prevent Jesus from going to the Cross. Jesus rebukes him saying, “Get behind me, Satan!”

The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah, he is here, but they’re not ready. Peter himself is not ready. It has been over 2000 years that he came and revealed himself. For us who are Christians today, can we say that we are ready for the news? Are we in any way better than Peter and the Jews in our understanding of the mission of the Messiah? How do we pray today regarding our enemies? Do we pray for their repentance and salvation or for their destruction? What do we think about ourselves as Christians? Do we not mostly think that because we are Christians we must not fall sick? We must not have any financial difficulties? We must not have family crisis? Everybody must love us? And when it doesn’t happen that way, do we not feel betrayed by Christ?

The truth of the matter is that we are still like the Jews, we are still like Peter, and we are still in the process of understanding the implication of the identity of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus has a plan that is better than our dreams. That plan is the plan of his Father for us; a plan that will take us to heaven where everything will be perfect. The only way to get there is to key into the mission of Jesus, to trust Jesus, who knows the way; to trust Jesus, who is the way.

My dearly beloved in Christ, as we continue to journey with Mark in his account of the gospel, let us continue to trust in the process, and the process is Jesus himself, the true source of our happiness. Like the song goes,

Trust and obey, for there is no other way

To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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