JUNE 19TH, 2016: TWELFTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
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.
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.
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;
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.”
One of the keys to learning the minds of our sacred authors is to learn how they use certain words. The same word may have different meanings for different authors. For instance, in today’s gospel when Luke has Peter declare that Jesus is the “Christ of God,” he’s simply saying Jesus is Yahweh’s Messiah. But when Paul employs the same word – Christ – in our Galatians pericope, he’s referring to the risen Jesus, not the historical Jesus.
It’s ironic that the historical Jesus’ original disciples had just as many problems with his “Messiahship” as his latter disciples had with his being risen. Both concepts could be horribly misunderstood.
As regards Jesus being the Messiah, there’s no one concept of Messiah that runs throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Each period of history came up with its own idea of what Yahweh’s Anointed should be and do. One generation of Jews might not even recognize the Messiah which another generation longed for. During the ministry of Jesus, for instance, most Jews were convinced Yahweh’s Messiah would be a military leader who would forcibly get rid of the Romans who were occupying the Promised Land. Yet, when Jesus’ followers gave that title to him, they were working from a different definition than most of their contemporaries. So, when Peter says, “You’re the Christ of God!” he was looking at Jesus from a unique perspective.
In a parallel way, what did Paul mean when he employed Christ as a title for the risen Jesus? Is the risen Jesus, as many Christians seem to believe, simply a resuscitated historical Jesus? Nothing could be further from Paul’s faith. In today’s Galatians passage, he gives his idea of what this “new creation” – the risen Jesus - really is. But he basically does so by saying what he/she isn’t. “For all of you,” he writes, “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.” In other words, “If you have become other Christs, you, like he/she, aren’t limited by the restrictions people on this planet normally have to labor under.
Capuchin author and lecturer Michael Crosby once mentioned, “It took the church about thirty years before it got rid of the distinction between Jews and Greeks, another 1900 years before slave and free persons fell by the way, and we’re still working on the male/female thing.”
Though we have no idea who the “pierced” individual is in our Zechariah reading, it’s clear that faith in Yahweh entails suffering. Only after a period of “mourning” will God’s followers receive the purification for which they’re longing. Nothing important in our faith happens unless someone first undergoes pain.
I presume it was painful for many first century Jewish Christians to see people like Paul bring Gentiles into the faith as Gentiles, or for some early 19th century American Catholic religious communities to finally admit that owning slaves is against God’s will. It’s just as painful today for many traditional Christians to accept gender equality. Yet, if we follow the risen Jesus, we must mirror the risen Jesus.
As I mentioned last week, Luke frequently redacts Mark. He added just one word to the saying he copied from his predecessor in today’s passage. Mark’s Jesus simply says, “We are to take up our cross and follow him.” But Luke’s Jesus says, “We must take up our cross daily and follow him.”
For Luke, we have to carry that cross every day of our lives. Every day we’re to endure the pain of discovering the risen Jesus among us.