This week’s Letter to Sinead and Mark, two young friends:
Sunday September 16, 2012. Gospel: St.Mark, 8:27-35. (Click on Mass Readings on Menu for the text of the readings)
Dear Sinead and Mark,
Back again with you! Can I take you this time on a journey, in your imagination? Come, travel with me a little while.
I’m a Hibernian traveler, a curious on-looker, walking the roads of Galilee with this strange Rabbi and his friends. They call him ‘Jehoshua’ or Jesus. This morning, we left the sea of Galilee early, as we have a long walk ahead of us. We’re heading north and east, towards Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in all this region, over 9000 feet high. Can’t miss it! We’ve about 40k to go. As we leave the Galilee behind us, we see in the distance a great temple city in the foothills of Mount Hermon. The city is on top of a high cliff, 100ft. high, and 500ft wide, and it looks very Roman in style,- and why wouldn’t it, since they are the Occupier Force in all this region. The city is named after the Emperor of Rome, Caesar, and his henchman King Philip (one of the Herod family!),- it’s called CAESAREA PHILIPPI, as Philip wants to impress his boss in Rome.
Can I tell another thing? The people in this region , not only do they worship the Emperor Caesar as a god, but they also worship the god PAN, -he’s the one who plays the pipes! He’s half goat and half man, and he’s the god of Fertility! No wonder he’s popular!
Anyway, here we are now walking behind the Rabbi Jesus, chatting away to each other. We can clearly see the temple city ahead on the mighty rock-face, shining in the glinting sun. While we’re gazing in awe, Jesus suddenly stops and turns to us. Something is bothering him, as if he is unsure about us. He asks us: ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Some of my friends in the group give different answers.. ‘you’re John the Baptist!’, ‘you’re the prophet Elijah!’ , ’You’re some ancient prophet!’, and so on. I’m watching his face as the answers come. Now he cuts to the chase and puts this to our group- ‘Who do YOU say that I am?’ Oh, that hurts. We have been following him for a couple of years or more, but he wants to know who do we think he is! Imagine! He’s serious. And, while we’re all stuck for words and embarrassed, good ol’ Simon Peter,- he’s always the first to jump in with the answers,- he blurts out to Jesus ‘’You’re the Christ’ (that means the Messiah in Hebrew, or God’s Anointed One, God’s Sent One’).
And you can see that Jesus is relieved! At least someone can see who he is. But he is telling us firmly to say nothing to anyone about it.
We’re still thinking about all this when he starts to tell us that yes, he is the Messiah, but he’s going to suffer really badly, he’s going to made a laughing stock for people, and then he’s going to be killed by the people. He tells us, at the end of that, that he will rise from the dead after three days! Whatever all that means, I haven’t a clue.
And he’s no sooner finished saying all this to us, when my friend Peter takes him by the elbow and walks him away from the crowd of us, a little bit.
Peter starts to give out yards to Jesus, that this was the wrong way to go.. He needed to have a bit of backbone, to be a leader, a warrior to lead the people against these Roman occupiers. Great stuff, Peter! I’m with you on that!
But what do you think Jesus does, -he is looking around at us, somehow with great love and sadness in his eyes, and he is saying to Peter, the hero of a few minutes ago (oops! this bit hurts!) ‘Get behind me SATAN!’ Wow, that’s some come-down for Peter. From hero to villain in minutes. Jesus then adds ‘the way you think is not God’s way’.
I’m wondering what will happen to Jesus! If he doesn’t go the way of chariots and swords, will he not end up with the Romans torturing him and killing him in their special cruel Roman way,- crucifixion! Nailed up to beams, and hanging there for hours, sometimes days, until you can’t breathe any more. Can’t bear to think of it.
So that’s where I am on the road today. I can see the great and beautiful city; I can see CAESAR, I can see PAN and all his goings on, and I can see JESUS. Who is CAESAR? Who is PAN? Who is JESUS?
As they say in my own language, back home in Hibernia, ‘Sin Ceist!’ ‘That’s the Question!’
My choice. My life. My head on the block? When it comes to it, which will I choose?
God help me!
Oops, too much thinking! There’s Jesus and the others heading back down the road for home, back to Capernaum. Will I run after them and catch up, – or stay where I am?
Thanks, Sinead and Mark, for sharing my journey with me. Check with me where I end up eventually. And good journeying for you both. God bliss and bless us all.
Your friend on the road,
(Seamus Devitt C.Ss.R., Esker).