Who do you say I am? Feast of the chair of St Peter -Matthew 16: 13-19

The confession of Peter, “you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God”, seems all too easy an answer, given the question if asked today, to you and me.  But did Peter fully fathom what he answered? For Jesus says to Peter, ‘flesh and blood has not revealed it to you but my Father in heaven’. So did Peter get it right by himself or was he just prompted by God? Did he fully understand who the Messiah was ?

How do we know when God is speaking to us? How can we be sure that the voices we hear in our head are not simply the chatter of our minds reflecting our own wishes; mere ‘flesh and blood’ responses?  How did Peter know what to say when the other disciples got the answer so wrong?

To understand the word ‘Messiah’ as being uniquely attributed only to Jesus would be as fallacious as to understand that Jesus was the only one crucified in history; yet many Christians believe so. Crucifixion was perhaps the most brutal public execution carried out by the Romans and Jesus was one of the thousands put to death in this fashion. The same understanding must be applied to the meaning of the word Messiah; it would be sentimental to insist that this word must exclusively apply itself to Jesus.

In time, this word Messiah has crystalized in the mind of the modern Christian to be attributed exclusively to Christ, though we would use it loosely to describe a person who comes to our aid in time of great need.  First century Judaism understood ‘mashiah’ meaning ‘anointed one’, to be anyone; from prophet, to warrior or king.  

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The man behind the miracle – Wednesday, 6th week in ordinary time –Mk 8:22-26

So straight away, after reading the gospel, two questions do pop up. Why did Jesus lead the blind man outside the village to heal him? And why did Jesus not heal him the first time round? ‘Were Jesus’ ‘powers’ failing? What is the point of this miracle that appears only in Mark’s gospel.

Too often, to answer the second question, the faith of the blind man is brought into question. Perhaps he did not have faith and that’s why Jesus had to lay his hands on him the second time. I think this is doing a grave injustice to the blind man.  There is no indication that the blind man did not have faith, his faith is not on trial; on the contrary his faith is amazing.

It is he who is led to Jesus by his friends who begged for a miracle. They asked Jesus to merely TOUCH him; but Jesus did more. Jesus takes the blind man by his hand and leads him. Wow, what an amazing feeling that must have been, to be led by Jesus personally.  The blind man does not pull back; he does not ask where is he being taken? He simply allows himself to be led.  So to impute a lack of faith to the blind man would be doing the blind man’s faith a great injustice.

 If we believe that the blind man’s faith was in question then what we are effectively saying is that faith is a magical power; if I have faith I am healed! It makes us some kind of Christian witch with powers to heal ourselves, if we have faith.  It is not OUR FAITH that heals us; it is OUR GOD who heals.

Does that then mean that Jesus had lost his ability to work miracles? Not at all! Jesus had already worked so many miracles that he does not need to pass this test.  So what’s happening then? Look at the totality in which these texts are based. Jesus, in spite of working so many miracles is pushed by the Pharisees for a sign (not miracle) because a sign would indicate the power behind the miracle.

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Six meals a day – 6th Week in ordinary time – Tuesday-Mk 8:14-21

Earlier, in chapter 8 Jesus had worked for the second time, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish. We are told that there were seven baskets leftover. These plaited baskets called, spuris in Greek, were large commercial baskets, large enough for a man like Paul to be placed in and lowered from the walls of Damascus.  Let’s assume that if a basket of this nature could hold a man like Paul, about eighty kilos in weight, then on an average seven such baskets would give us fifty six kilos of scrap food; not forgetting that the Lord had already fed four thousand.

Where is all this going? In today’s gospel we are told that the disciples have got into the boat with Jesus and then, much to their dismay they realize that they have only ONE LOAF of bread.  Jesus aware of their reaction must have been shocked at their incredulity and ignores them as he continues to teach them about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Herod. They just don’t get it! They were still worried about their one loaf of bread and thinks that he speaks so because they forgot to bring bread! Jesus must have been at his wits end. He is the bread of life who demonstrated that He could work the impossible and feed thousands, and here were his own, his closest, his disciples, who were worried about ONE LOAF OF BREAD!!

His confrontation is hard on them. The disciples are accused of the same behaviour as that of the Pharisees. “Do you not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you fail to see, hear and remember?  What a frustrating moment that must have been for Jesus. His very own understood him not.

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Simple truth – When all is NOT well

The simple truth is this; most people never have their emotional needs met simply because they are drawing from wells that are dry to them. Each one of us have a ‘well of emotions’ but we choose selectively; we decided who can and when they can draw from it.  Unfortunately you may be one such person who goes with your bucket to these wells that are mostly if not always closed to you.

The result is devastating.  A thirsty person is not merely disappointed but they end up being despondent. So here is what you need to do if your emotional needs are not met, simply change the well you are drawing from. Now before some start insinuating that I am suggesting adultery, I am not. I am talking about emotional needs generically and not specifically to marriage.

Let me explain myself. A constant complaint from many people is that those closest to them, a friend, relative, parent or child often don’t meet the basic emotional need or the attention that one ought to get. Their several efforts to draw from these wells are met with rejection or dryness. It’s not that they have not tried; the size of the emotional bucket has been compromised so often that it is now a small jug, yet the results are the same, the well is dry.

Ironically these same wells are filled with sweet water for others and this alarming fact stares us in the face. The same well that yields us not a drop seems to have flowing water for others. This all too evident irony is often smothered with self-blame. “Perhaps it is my fault because I came too often at this well” or “It’s my fault because I came to draw water at the wrong time”. These and several more excuses don’t assuage the truth that stares you in the face. These wells have water but they have none for you.

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Hardened Hearts – Monday, 6th Week in ordinary time – Mark 8: 11-13

The gospel of today tells us that the scribes and the Pharisees come to argue with Jesus and right away we know where their hearts lie.  They ask Jesus for a sign, not a miracle, why? If you look through the gospel of Mark, Jesus, by the chapter eight has worked innumerable miracles and asking him for one more would gain them nothing. Prominent among them are the multiplication of the loaves and fish in chapter 6, worked in a Jewish area and the again in chapter 8 in a Gentile area. They have seen the miracles but they don’t care and so unlike in Chapter 7:1 where they find a reason to argue with Jesus, here they come to pick a fight, plain and simple; their minds were made up, he had to die!

Hardened hearts are dangerous. It could blind us to such a degree that we reduce a miracle working God to criminal on the cross. The Pharisees come to Jesus to ‘test’ him. Ironically the other person who tested Jesus was Satan. We are told in the pericope of the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand, that the people were following Jesus for three days, they were hungry; yet they never put him to a test, they never demanded a sign.

That’s why Jesus sighs, and interesting says, “No sign will be given to this generation”.  Where does that leave us? Should our hearts be bent on testing the Lord, should we continue to pick on his commandments and mock him then his words become true for us too, ‘ no sign will be given to us.’

We are invited today to trust the Lord, to ask and know we will receive, to seek and be confident to find, to knock and be assured that the door will be open.

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