Why did Jesus scold the disciples? He asks them about his identity. And Peter gets really honest and says that he is the Anointed One of God. And they all get scolded for speaking up. Why? I wonder if it is because Peter uses the term “Christ?” It is a Greek word. The Hebrew word is “Messiah.” So, basically Peter says, “Lord, you are the Messiah who is finally here. You will be a great political leader who will lead us all into battle against our enemies, esp., the Romans. Then, when victory is ours’ we will seat you upon a throne and crown you King of Israel. You will reign forever.” That is probably why Jesus scolds the disciples and tells them never to use that term again.
Instead, Jesus calls himself the suffering servant. Using the words of the poet, Denise Levertov, Jesus is the one who bears the burden of humanness. I think that this model of denial and “servant-hood” makes us a little uncomfortable. We think it naïve, or, better, stupid. My theory is that you and I often struggle with that “denial” part of the Gospel because we want Jesus Christ to be a royal image and a “gimme god.”
For example, if we look behind us we see the statue of the Good Shepherd. Here is Jesus calling us to give him our burdens. Here is the Good Shepherd protecting us and asking us to come to him with all of our prayers. But what about the statue of the Jesus who lies on a park bench, homeless, cold and afraid? This Jesus sleeps on the park bench and this statue could be anywhere. We know it is Jesus because there are holes in his feet.
What statue would we Americans prefer? Hmm, interesting call. We would probably choose the statue of the Sacred Heart. And we will not place votive lamps in front of the Jesus who lies on the park bench.
Christ denied even his own divinity and we struggle with denying our own humanity because we think we are divine. In the words of our late Fr. Chrysostom, “When they ask, I always give to them.” He made these words famous one day when he was stopped on the streets of Chicago and a robber wanted money. He had no money, so he gave them his watch. As we follow Christ, we deny that temptation to snap at others. We deny that urge to bark at a sister. We deny that dirty deed to plot the downfall of an enemy. We deny our busy schedule to stop and visit with a resident. We deny that sloth inside of us and act justly with one another. In other words, we carry the cross and bear the burden of humanness with Christ.
Every time we come to this church, Christ bears the burden of our humanness. Here at this altar, there is no male or female, young or old, well or sick, we are all one in Christ Jesus.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
The 12th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C