TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
First Reading (Zech 12: 10-11):
Human beings will look on the one they have pierced
“Who do the crowds say that I am?... But who do you say that I am?... If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. (Lk 9: 18-24, summarized)
Jesus had two intentions. He wanted his disciples to know how other people thought or spoke about him and even more, he wanted to know what the disciples themselves thought about him.
In order to preach the Gospel and witness to Jesus, we need to know all about the audience to whom we preach, especially the specific situation and environment. We also cannot ignore or be unaware of others' thinking and feelings, how they perceive and judge reality, how they are affected and how they accept life.
Evangelization is not only about what we preach, what topics we talk about, but also about what our listeners can understand and really absorb. It is not only about how we live and work, but also about how others perceive our life and actions, or rather, how we put our words into practice.
The answers the disciples gave to Jesus were quite positive. They told Jesus: some people said he was John the Baptist, some said he was Elijah, and some said that perhaps “one of the ancient prophets had arisen.” (Lk 9: 19)
Actually what the disciples did not mention to Jesus was that there were also people who said he was only the son of a carpenter, someone who lusted after food and drink, a man who called on the Prince of Devils to drive out other devils. There was even a disciple (Nathanael) who before he followed Jesus had scorned even the place where Jesus had been raised and said to Philip in contempt ,”Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46)
But no matter what other people said Jesus was more concerned with how his disciples perceived him. So on behalf of all the other disciples, Peter said, “You are the Messiah of God.” (Lk 9:20)
Messiah (or Anointed One) is someone who has been anointed with oil. In the ancient times of the Jews, prophets, priests, kings and other exalted persons, were all ceremoniously anointed with oil. To acknowledge that Jesus was 'the anointed one' was to recognize Jesus' exalted identity and high status. Indeed, the original meaning of the Greek word for 'Christ' or the Hebrew word for the 'Messiah' is the 'Anointed One.'
To recognize Jesus and to acknowledge that he was the exalted anointed one, our Saviour, was not an easy matter. It was not then, nor is it today.
An example can be found in the accounts of Jesus driving out devils. Some people could see that Jesus came from God, while others thought that he was a follower of the ‘Prince of Devils.’
Life can be very complicated and it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between what is true and what is false. We often think what is true is false and what is false is true; take angels as devils and devils as angels. We ourselves make mistakes, as do our friends, families and communities. So also do our countries, our nation and the church. All of us human beings have made mistakes and will continue to do so.
The only way to avoid making mistakes, or rather to overcome our mistakes, is to rely on Jesus. Today's gospel gives us a hint how to do this: deny oneself, take up one's cross daily and follow Jesus.
To deny oneself means to be totally open to Jesus and not consider ourselves absolute in all things. Only Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We are not 'absolute', nor is our country, race or culture, nor even the Church. No matter who, those who think they possess the whole truth are apt to cut themselves off entirely from Truth. Moreover, even if we were able to possess the whole truth, our comprehension of the truth may not be complete.
In striving to adopt a life attitude that denies self and is completely open to Jesus, there are four ways to arrive at Truth. First, we must exert ourselves to search and find the truth by reflecting and meditating, and through our own lives and actions; second, we should also listen to other people's experience and trust that they too are searching for the truth and have the ability to find it; third, we should accept the teachings of the Church because she is the faith community that Jesus empowered to defend the Truth, and with sincerity she continually searches for truth, fourth, we should take as a reference the wisdom of the world, because God reveals truth to the world also.
The above four elements - the individual, others, the Church and the world – are not disconnected from each other. Rather, they are mutually influencing, affirming, enhancing and challenging each other. We must repeatedly review the ways we take to search for Truth, so that we may find Jesus and his truth as he gradually reveals himself in the historical traces of our personal and community lives.
We firmly believe in Jesus, the anointed one of God, and we believe too that we can reach life's ultimate point of beauty and goodness. But we must have a humble heart and open attitude and together with all 'people of good will' continue our search for the anointed one of God...
We certainly can identify with Zhuang Zi's viewpoint that “our lives are limited, but knowledge is unlimited,”(1) But we still want to make use of this finite life to search for the infinite Christ. We know that as long as Christ is with us, at the end of the search there will be joyful and everlasting life.