The 6th Thursday of Ordinary Time
“But who do you say that I am?”
The people try to stuff the unprecedented newness of Christ back into familiar, prefabricated categories: he is John the Baptist, one of the prophets…
Peter and the disciples say he is “the Christ.”
In Matthew and Luke, they say, “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” and Jesus remarks that this has been revealed to them by the Father.
Mark is much more ambivalent: “the Christ” in his account sounds like just another prefabricated human category. All Jesus says is: if that’s what you think, keep it to yourself.
By Christ or Messiah, they understand perhaps something like a new king David who will shake off the Roman oppressor by force and restore the dignity of Israel. This is the kind of thing he wants them to keep to themselves.
What he speaks about openly, by contrast, is that “the Son of Man,” Jesus’ preferred title, (not “Christ” or “the son of the living God”) must suffer greatly, be rejected and killed, to rise after three days.
Peter audaciously “rebukes” Jesus in front of the other disciples—this is not what he meant by “Christ” at all!— and Jesus calls him “Satan” and tells him he is thinking like a human being and not like God.
Why is to think like a human being to think like Satan, the Accuser, and how exactly does God think differently?
In the words of Simone Weil: “Whoever takes up the sword shall perish by the sword. And whoever does not take up the sword (or lets it go) shall perish on the cross.”
In other words, “kill or be killed.” Either we cause violence or willingly undergo suffering, the human way (and the way of the Accuser) or God’s way…as demonstrated by Jesus.
Original sin means that every human society is built on exclusion and violence: us against them. It’s baked into every social structure. Only the Cross offers a way beyond, only the willingness to suffer rather than cause suffering.
This means a stepping outside our usual frame as radical as when Abraham left behind his ancestral ways, “setting out without knowing where.”
Each day offers opportunities to give way, renounce, let go, not judge… and our attention to these moments and willingness to embrace the splinter of the cross they bring to us, prepares us for the major decisions and sufferings that occasionally come along. “The one who is faithful in little things will be faithful in greater ones.”