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June 23, 1995     The Message
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1995 The Message -- for Catholics of SoUthwestern Indiana 9 Commentary -- Peter professes Jesus as Messiah : GOSpel commentary for pies to say anything publicly Luke now adds Jesus' sayings about the difficulty 25, 1995, Twelfth Sunday, Time, Cycle C, Luke i While Jesus was engaged in prayer he asked his disci- public opinion was say- him. The public thought might be a resurrected John laptist who had been put to by Herod Antipas. Some might be Elijah, a ninth elite prophet. Elijah reported to have been whirled heaven in a chariot of fire of fire, II Kings 2:11-12. to public opinion as expressed in the of Malachy and Sirach, Elijah was expected return from heaven. Others thought Jesus might other ancient prophet risen from the dead. asks his disciples their own opinion of Peter answers for all: "You are the (Christ) of God." Note that "Messiah" and are the same word. The first is derived Hebrew, the second from Greek. Generally means "the one anointed" by God for a mission. At least one aspect of public opin- the time of Jesus would have defined the as the one anointed or commissioned by deliver the Jewish people from foreign op- "Messiah" was therefore a highly charged a Country that was suffering under Roman The Messiah was also thought to come line of King David, therefore born a in opposition to Caesar. It is therefore possible that Jesus forbade the disci- R about him being Messiah. Since Luke takes the major part of this story from the Gospel of Mark, it is always interesting to see what changes he made in Mark's story. This is all the more interesting since Luke stated at the beginning of his gospel that he was going to do correctly what others before him attempted to do. Luke alone inserts a note about Jesus pray- ing. This is typical of Luke. He does this throughout the gospel, when he takes over material from Mark where Mark said nothing about Jesus praying. In the Gospel of Mark Peter's answer to Jesus was: "You are the Messiah." Luke adds, "of God." This may be Luke's way of giving the word "Messiah" a non- political spin, restricting the term to a religious meaning only. Following Mark's lead, Luke adds Jesus' first prediction of his suffering, death, and resurrec- tion. What he now omits is significant. In the Gospel of Mark Peter takes Jesus aside and re- bukes him for the statement about his suffering, death, and resurrection. Jesus turns on Peter and orders him to fall in line. He calls him "Satan," and adds: "you are not on the side of GOd but of men." Luke usually omits anything that would cast one of the later heroes of Christianity into a negative light, especially Simon Peter. He does include Peter's denial of Jesus but softens it by having Jesus say at the Last Supper that he would pray for Peter, that he would be converted, and become strength to the others. of following him, of being his disciples. He makes one significant change in Mark's text. Where Mark's Jesus had said: "If any would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross... "To this state- ment Luke adds "daily," that is, to take up their cross every day. Why? When Mark wrote about 70 A.D. he was writing under the shadow of a persecution in Rome in which many Christians had died, some by crucifix- ion. The tone of Mark's gospel was deeply influenced by the pain, the experience, and the real possibility of a reneWal of this type of persecution. For this and other reasons Mark concludes that the end is at hand. Jesus would soon return in the "second coming" to rescue his people. Not so, says Luke, some years later. One of the purposes of his gospel seems to be to correct the im- pression that the end was at hand. The world and the mission of Christianity to the world was to con- tinue indefinitely. The "cross" which the Roman Christians had literally taken up and followed Jesus is given a more universal meaning by Luke. "Taking up the cross," and "losing one's life for my sake" does not necessarily mean bloody martyrdom. For Luke it now means acceptance of God's will in the daily struggles of Christian life in a world that does not accent Christian values. One does not put the cross aside because of opposition, but carries it in such a way that one "loses life" by giving up a self-centered existence and "will save life" by living for others. Ex- amples today: those who struggle for the right to life of the unborn, the handicapped, the terminally ill. They truly take up Jesus' cross and save not only their own lives but that of others. Readings: Zechariah 12:10.11: 13:1; Gala- tians 3:26.29. 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