A heartfelt witness – Friday, 25th week in ordinary time – Lk 9:18-22
Please note that these reflections are best read only after you have read the Gospel text and kept besides you as a reference. The aim of these reflections is to teach and not merely preach.
Jesus’ Galilean ministry is drawing to a close and this section (9:7-50) will focus on the response of people to Jesus’ ministry. We have already encountered Herod who wants to ‘see’ Jesus but does not ‘seek’ Him. For Herod Jesus is merely an object of curiosity.
The reading of today which falls in this larger section, took place a few days after the feeding of the five thousands for the text begins with the words, “once when Jesus was praying along with only the disciples near him.” In the Gospel of St Luke, the reference to Jesus at prayer is indicative that something theologically important is about to occur.
In asking the disciples who do people say he is Jesus wishes to elicit a response from those closest to him and to know what is in the mind of the Galileans. The response of the eleven concurs with the response given to Herod when he sought to inquire about Jesus (see9:7-9). Some thought Jesus was John the Baptist, others Elijah or still others one of the prophets who had arisen.
It is Peter as spokesperson for the disciples, who acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah (which means the anointed one) of God. Luke has a soft corer for Peter and in his Gospel paints a very flattering and deeply appreciative portrait of Peter (Luke 5:1-11 the call of the disciples) as compared to the other disciples. It is for this reason that the Lucan narrative of the Gospel will omit Mark’s presentation of Peter as one who rebukes Jesus for His predicting that he will suffer. The rebuke of Peter by Jesus is also dropped.
Unlike the Gospel of Matthew where Luke makes a “confession of faith”, here Peter simply answers from what he has seen and himself done in the name of Jesus. It is this first-hand experience of the Lord that prompts Peter to boldly declare Jesus as the Messiah of God.
For Luke, who presents the cross as an integral part of the mission of Christ, the proclamation of Peter as Jesus the Messiah of God must now be seen in the light of the cross. The Messiah must now walk to the cross and so Luke alerts his readers to that reality of opposition to Jesus and his death on the cross. The very title ‘Son of God’ by which sins were forgiven (5:24) and Sabbath regulations were changed (6:5) is now used to describe Jesus’ humiliation (9:21- 22)
Our take away from the Gospel today is Peter’s response to Jesus question. Peter who has been called personally by the Lord, who has witnessed the miracles of Jesus, who has just seen him feed five thousand men and raised the dead and drive out demons, needs no certification or stamp of approval from others; he knows in his heart that Jesus is the Messiah.
It is this deep personal encounter and not some second hand experience that makes Peter’s answer so rock solid. Unlike the other Gospels there is no wavering and no hesitation. At the heart of such certainty and faith lies a personal relationship that Peter shares with Jesus, a relationship that we too would do well to cultivate. For when then Lord asks us the same question, our answer cannot be influenced by the thoughts of others, no matter how spiritual or pious they may be, but must be ours to witness to.
Fr Warner D’Souza.
With much help from the JBC.
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