19 June 2016: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Zec 12:10-11; 13:1 Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Gal 3:26-29 Lk 9:18-24

 

The who and the how

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to reflect on identity and mission.

The first reading is from Zechariah, a composite work by two prophets: Zechariah, written between 520 and 518BC, and Second Zechariah, written about a century later. The Lectionary editors chose the Second Zechariah passage because of its messianic themes. Christian scripture writers read “they shall look on him whom they have pierced” as reference to Jesus’ death (Jn 19:37).

The second reading continues Paul’s letter to the Galatia ekklasia. Today’s passage comes immediately after last week’s discussion about justification. Paul presents baptism as the “sacrament of justification”–the visible sign that we have been made “right with God.” The phrase “to put on Christ” was likely part of a baptismal formula. When Paul says that we are “clothed with Christ,” he uses the word ἐνδύω (en-DOO-oh), which means “to sink into a garment.” The early church practiced baptism by total immersion: a bishop sank each catechumen under water; on rising, a sponsor wrapped the catechumen with a white garment signifying new life in Christ. The act of “putting on Christ” in the white baptismal garment expresses racial, social, and sexual equality (Col 3:11).

In the gospel we hear Luke’s version of Peter’s confession of faith and discipleship. Peter’s personal encounter with Jesus–not dogma or theology–leads him to faith and to discipleship. Peter, the rest of the Twelve, and all of us face two questions:

  • Who is Jesus? The crowds offers three possibilities about Jesus’ identity–John the Baptizer, Elijah, or an ancient prophet. Jesus asks his disciples “Whom do you declare me to be?” Peter answers, “the Christ (messiah) of God.” The crowds are looking for a political or military messiah-leader; Jesus’ words and signs reveal he is a servant-messiah.
  • How do we follow? Jesus sums up how to follow him: deny yourself so you can serve others. Luke’s reference to taking up one’s cross echoes and compliments Jesus’ passion prediction, and reminds those who wish to follow Jesus that their mission, like his, includes suffering and death. Luke adds the phrase “every day” to emphasize that discipleship requires a daily choice to follow Jesus.

These two questions confront RCIA participants and the entire believing community every day. If we believe that Jesus is “the Christ of God,” we must also accept that he came to serve, to suffer, and to give his life. If we choose to follow Jesus, we “put on Christ”–take on Jesus’ identity and person–not simply through the sign of baptism but also through a life-mission of service to others, whatever the personal cost. Is this our discipleship? Every day?

—Terence Sherlock

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