Echoes of the Word 19th June 2016
Gospel, Luke 9:18-24
One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.
‘The Son of Man’ he said ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’
Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’
Commentary on Luke 9:18-24
This is one of the central texts of Luke's gospel, and contains three important themes. The first is that of the identity of Jesus himself. Is he merely a great teacher in the same line as the Old Testament prophets? Is he the long expected Messiah? Is he not only Son of Man but Son of God? This is a theme which will develop from this text through the later gospel of John, which is dominated by the question 'Who are you?', into the dense debates leading in the Early Church to the great creeds, which define the crucial doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation. The second theme is that of a Messiah who must suffer and die for the salvation of the world, in fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies (Isaiah). The third theme is that of discipleship. The followers of Jesus will also be called upon to travel the path of redemptive suffering in union with Jesus himself.
As readers of the New Testament and of the early creeds, we are invited to identify with this development of doctrine. It was a development that made great demands on Jesus's earliest followers who were drawn gradually into the mystery of Christ's identity as Son of God. We have every day a challenge very similar to the one that faced them.
Fr Dominic Milroy OSB
The Birthday of John the Baptist, 24th June
John the Baptist is the only saint (apart from Our Lady) whose birthday is celebrated by the Church. The forerunner of Jesus, he had the insight to recognise Jesus as the Lamb of God. As famous for his preaching as for his baptising, John fearlessly denounced the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, but was surprising mild to the ordinary people who were doing their best. Though he might have been tempted to regard Jesus as a rival, it is John’s testimony that encourages two of his own followers (including Peter’s brother, Andrew) to become disciples of Jesus. John not only points the way to Jesus, but he is also not proud of his own dignity. “He must grow greater, I must grow less”; “I am not fit to undo his sandal strap”. This is no false modesty but genuine humility, recognising that Jesus is more than just a man. So John is clear-sighted, uncompromising and courageous. It was his intense prayer that showed him the truth – both the right way that people should live, and the truth that Jesus is the one whom he has been preparing for. It is our prayer that enables us to live the same truths.
Fr Terence Richardson OSB, Prior