“Discipleship is Following Jesus on the Way of the Cross ( Mk 8: 27-35)” by Fr. Joel

The prophet Isaiah tells us that a true follower of God is a servant. A servant is a son or a daughter of God who works in accord to His ways.

The context of the gospel this Sunday is on the thematic teaching of Jesus on his suffering through the way of the cross. It is structured through the Paschal Mystery, that is the Passion, Death and Resurrection that He, Himself will experience. Jesus made the prediction in all these happenings in His life but He was misunderstood by the disciples. In the end, He corrected their misunderstandings by offering them an option for living.

Who do people say that I am? (v. 27) This query of Jesus to his disciples about the impression of people about Him is His way on testing and evaluating their faith in Him. While He is interested on what the beneficiaries of His word will tell about Him, it is a strong reminder and an evaluation too on the part of the disciples as regards their responsibility in assisting Jesus in the missionary task in spreading the Good News. Have we ever thought in reading the bible and sharing His words to others? Other denominations in Christian faith has strong inclinations in this, thus, they continue to immerse themselves in the Word of God.

But who do you say that I am? (v.29) The shift in Jesus’ query is highly noticeable. This time he goes personal, “But who do you say that I am?” He is like saying “How much have you known me? Do you really know my mission? Do you know the reason why I call you? Is your life consistent to the witnessing I show you? Jesus is giving his disciples here a guided retreat in order to help them know Him more and help them understand the true value in following his way of life, that is, the essence of His Paschal Mystery. Peter had the best reflection when he answered “You are the Messiah!”. And Jesus affirmed him in his answer for truly, it is the Father who revealed it to him. And since His time has not yet come, He ordered them not to tell anyone who he is.

Get behind me Satan, for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men. (v. 33) A great shift happened in this part of the dialogue. It was a shift from Peter’s affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah which by authority, he was given the keys of heaven BUT after a minute of conversation, he was exorcising the presence of Satan in Peter. Jesus reminds us of the vulnerability of the human person especially those in authority. Thus, constant discernment is very must but the challenge is for all on how we can be mindful of our words and actions.

“If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (v. 34) This verse summarizes on the desire of Jesus on how we can wholeheartedly share on the mission entrusted to Him by the Father. It is through this way of life that a disciple of Jesus can truly embrace and lived with meaning the value in following his footsteps.

St. Francis made this as the rallying point in his life. He humbled himself and accepted in total authenticity the way of life of Jesus. (This became the spiritual vision of Francis-the love of the passion aside from the humility of Incarnation.) Having embraced the same, He received the Stigmata in Mt. Alverna, the holy wounds that Jesus received in the Calvary, imprinted in his body. For Jesus, true discipleship is taking up His cross. And everything in us follows.

So what should be the way of life of an authentic disciple of Jesus?
The prophet Isaiah tells us that a true follower of God is a servant. A servant is a son or a daughter of God who works in accord to His ways. The Letter of James reminded us on the importance of faith in action when he said: “Say to whoever challenges you, “Have faith and I have good deeds; show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act.” (V.18)

In the most recently concluded 12th Franciscan Pastoral Conference in Baguio City H.E. Most Rev. Renato Mayubga,D.D. challenged the Franciscan friars and lay leaders on the importance in knowing Jesus through the Bible, the only source that gives on the ministerial life of Jesus. He said that for us Catholics, we value the Word of God and the Tradition of our Church, taking into consideration as well the saints and the Saints in our Church. He believes and affirms the faithful in their profound experiences of concretizing the Word of God. But he dare say that it will become all the more inspiring and meaningful if we read and study His Word, deepen it in our day to day life through our constant witnessing, and keeping Him in our mind and in our hearts through our faith.”

As we celebrate the National Laity Week this September 23 to 29 with the theme: “Building Up the Body of Christ and Strengthening our Faith through New Evangelization” and honoring San Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod, Patron Saints of the Catholic Laity of the Philippines, let us follow them as they themselves followed Jesus on the Way of the Cross. The mark of the true disciple is on how one finds meaning in the midst of suffering because it is only through the Passion and Death that one will experience the Resurrection.

published on September 16, 2012 Parish Bulletin