"Who do people say that I am?"
Reflection on Mark 8: 27-33
Just when you think you know someone very well you discover something new about them that either surprises you or shocks you. You may discover a past or present behavior of a friend or spouse that leads you to think how generous or kind they were. Or how they overcame an adversity with a tough and courageous spirit. Or sadly maybe some behavior that is disturbing which hopefully we learn from our mistakes - yet we sometimes don't. At least not immediately.
Well, I believe the same was true in the case of the Apostles and Jesus. We may imagine that they knew Jesus very well. They were called by him, spent their days and nights in his presence, witnessed the miracles and heard his inspiring teaching. They saw the crowds he drew and were present when he walked on water in the midst of a stormy lake. And of course they were present at supper when he shared bread and wine - his body and blood for them and all.
Yet, Jesus was mysterious and often his teaching in parables and its meaning was not always clear. The crowds didn't always understand the deeper implication of his miracles and so too the Apostles. They came to a gradual comprehension of who and how they were called to share in his mission.
The Gospel above for this Thursday indicates that though Jesus' question to all of them about what sort of opinions they heard from the crowd about his identity, may well have reflected their own limitation - at times confusion about his person. Only Peter speaks up but I've always wondered if the other eleven likely had some diverse opinion of Jesus. Maybe they too wondered if he was John the Baptist returned or one of the Prophets present again. Certainly he seemed to preach with the same conviction and act with a singular authority and purpose. So, who is he?
Peter speaks the truth but he does not comprehend the full meaning of his own statement. That was yet to be revealed but suffering and death was not a part of what Peter imagined, and likely the others as well. That was yet to be revealed through the events of suffering and death Jesus refers to. So, lest there be misunderstanding, keep this to yourselves for now.
Evidently, Peter was strong in his reaction to Jesus predicted suffering. Our Lord "rebukes" him. A strong word which brings up images of a stern and near angry tone from Jesus. It must have startled Peter and the others enough that they got the point that although Peter meant well to protect Jesus from such scandal, he didn't get the point. So, they must wait and see. The glory of the resurrection and the Pentecost event was yet to unfold.
In time they would come to see and understand after the resurrection and the coming of the Spirit. This was the time of their formation until they would come to connect the dots and see the truth.
In a sense, the same is true for us I think. In know that in times of prayer and the busy days of ministry I've been surprised, inspired, embarrassed by my own preconceived idea of things, etc. God knows us far more than we think we know ourselves. Although he remains a mystery, through Jesus he has made himself approachable and revealed his heart of mercy for us all.
So, let yourself be surprised by God. Approach him with no expectations and pray to be open to what he wants to reveal through his sacred Word, our daily lives and the sacraments.