August 8, 2014

The Gospel Today

Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest

Matthew. 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay each according to his conduct.
Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here
who will not taste death
until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

Reflection (Sem. Jul Elden Nuique):

Two thousand years ago, Jesus, the son of a carpenter from the small town of Nazareth, made gigantic claims that hinge only upon his person.  He told people to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him.  He claimed that whoever lost his life for the sake of Jesus would find it.  He called himself the Son of Man, an Old Testament term referring to the Anointed One of God, who would come with his angels in his Father’s glory.  He even said that some of his audience would not taste death until they see him coming in his Kingdom.

How is it that even nowadays we believe his words?  How can we continue to be affected by his outlandish claims, distant as we are from his cultural context?  One possibility is that we are fools for still believing him.  His rhetoric sways us and we believe his platitudes.  We lack the level of critical thinking necessary to see through the thick hogwash he has put before our eyes.  We are complacent that we have the numbers, as a religious group, to insist that our beliefs are real and those who oppose us are heretics.  This is certainly one possibility and there are people who argue for its validity.

Another possibility is that we accept Jesus’ claims as genuine because so many people throughout history have said so.  Many philosophers and theologians, people whose mental acuity far exceeds ours, have given various proofs in great breadth and depth.  We feel that this great host of apologists, or defenders of the faith, is enough to convince anyone that Jesus is the real deal.  We are complacent in their knowledge.

The last possibility is that we have actually thought about what this carpenter’s son has said.  In our experience, what he has said seems true, and so we have sought to verify our suspicions.  In judiciously examining those suspicions by some form of further study, we have continuously hit a wall wherein the only possible way to breach it is by completely believing that this carpenter’s son is God.  In believing that this claim is fact, we then realize how this quest for truth has become existential and personal, we suddenly find ourselves in a relationship with this Jesus whom we now recognize to be the Christ, the long-awaited Redeemer of Humanity.  It is then that we reassess all that we know about Jesus with the personal belief that he is the God of all Creation.  This results in a paradigm shift in our morality.  Instead of being self-centered, we are now Christ-centered, and the people we meet see the great difference.

In which group among the three do we belong?

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