Fr. Romeo Ballan
Who is Jesus? What is He to us? Why is it exciting that He enters into our life? These are questions that have always concerned believers and non-believers everywhere. The Gospel and the other readings of this Sunday suggest a pedagogical path leading towards meeting Him. Jesus’ question: “Who do the crowds say I am?” (v. 18) is not the start of a popularity poll, but an occasion for enabling the disciples and the people to better understand his identity.
The evangelist Luke remarks that it is a circumstance to which it’s worth paying considerable attention: in fact it shows Jesus “in prayer in a solitary place”, as he was used to do before important events (Lk 3:21; 5:16; 6:12; 9:28). The answers given by the people place Jesus at the level of a forerunner: like Elias, the Baptist or some other prophet in the role of an outrider. They did not recognise in Jesus the qualities of the Messiah everyone was dreaming about: a hero, a victorious, political and intelligent king. Jesus regards even Peter’s answer: you are “the Christ of God” (v. 20) as inadequate. The formula is correct, but in the head of Peter and of his companions the understanding is still ambiguous: to them Jesus was, of course, God’s Messiah; it was only a matter of waiting, with a bit of patience, for the moment in which He would show himself with power and majesty to make true the dream of liberation they all cherished. Jesus does not want his disciples to contribute to the spreading of such misinterpretation (v. 21). He is the Christ of God; he is the Messiah, but a crucified one. So that, with neither delays nor discounts, Jesus speaks, with unnerving words, of the mission he is called to carry out: suffering, refusal, death, but at the end the definitive word of God on human defeat will be the absolute novelty of the resurrection (v. 22).
Jesus indicates the path “for all” (v. 23-24). Free from false illusions, he speaks with clarity and out of love. “The Master confronts us with a choice. He does not invite us to make more sacrifices than other people, to look for suffering, but requires that we do not allow ourselves to be guided any more by the seeking of our advantage and affirmation; he asks to stop placing ourselves at the centre of attention… Death on the cross was for Jesus the consequence of his love choices. He has rejected this world’s principles, values and considerations and has proposed those of the Beatitudes. He has irritated, annoyed and unsettled the religious as well as the political structures; he couldn’t but be rejected, persecuted and gotten rid of. The disciples who intend to follow his way cannot expect to receive applauses, recognitions and approvals from men, but must be willing to face opposition and the cross” (F. Armellini).
Jesus is not a masochist who encourages looking for the cross. Neither He nor the Father wanted or planned death on the cross: it befell on Him from outside, from those opposed to Him. That’s why the cross was the consequence of a ruthless human logic. By accepting it with love and gratitude, Jesus transforms it in oblation and redemption. Jesus’ compliance with such plan, which upsets men’s way of reckoning, has always been faithful, so that the disciple, too, is called “every day” (v. 23) to confront himself with the realistic requirements in following his Master. His eyes always fixed on Him (I Reading), the new first-born child, will bring to the human family “a spirit of kindness and prayer: they will look on the one whom they have pierced” (v. 10). Here the prophet Zechariah refers to a dramatic event that shook the people a few centuries before Christ. It is highly symbolic that the evangelist John links up that character and that event with Christ himself pierced on the cross (Jn 19:37). All those who, with a weeping and trustful heart, gaze at the pierced Heart of Christ will find “an open fountain to wash away sin and impurity” (Zc 13:1). (*)
With our gaze free from looking at ourselves, so that we may focus solely on the transfixed Heart, it is possible for us to absorb Christ’s feelings (II Reading): having become children of God (v. 26), “clothed in Christ” (v. 27). The first and best fruit will be this new way of looking also towards other people: with a fraternal eye, as equals, doing away with distinctions of race, gender, social state… which set people apart, so that we may be “one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). From the contemplation of Christ, the Pierced One on the cross, the new Heart of the human family, fraternity towards all that has to be attained together in the world is born: It is everyone’s mission!
The Pope’s Words
(*) “From the Lord’s pierced side, from his open Heart, there springs the living fountain which continues to well up over the centuries and which makes the Church. The open heart is the source of a new stream of life; here John was certainly also thinking of the prophecy of Ezekiel who saw flowing forth from the new temple a torrent bestowing fruitfulness and life (Ezk 47): Jesus himself is the new temple, and his open Heart is the source of a stream of new life which is communicated to us in Baptism and the Eucharist”.
Homily on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 11 June 2010
In the steps of Missionaries
- 20/6: World Refugee Day, created by UNO in 2000.
- 21/6: St Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591), an Italian Jesuit student who died in Rome at the age of 23 from the plague he caught from those he had been assisting. He is the Patron of all young Students.
- 22/6: St. Paulinus of Nola (353-431), Bishop and Latin poet. He was born in France, but his ministry was mainly in the Campania area of Italy.
- 22/6: Sts. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, and Thomas More, a magistrate and Chancellor of England: intrepid defenders of the Catholic Faith against the actions of Henry VIII. Both were martyred in London (+1535). Around this period there were many English Martyrs, killed at various times and in various places. St. Thomas Moore is the Patron of Rulers and Politicians.
- 24/6: Birth of St. John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Messiah. He announced his coming and prepared the way for him, ending his witness with martyrdom. He is the model of missionaries.
- 25/6: Memoria of the Servant of God, Mgr. Melchior de Marion Brésillac (1813-1859), a Frenchman who founded the Society for African Missions (SMA) in Lyons.
- 26/6: St. Vigilio (+405), the third Bishop of Trent (Italia), and evangeliser of the region with the help of three missionaries from Cappadocia (now Turkey). He was martyred in the Rendena valley.
- 26/6: St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (1902-1975), a Spanish priest and founder of Opus Dei, to promote the ideal of sanctification through daily life and work.
- 26/6: World Day of Support for the Victims of Torture (UNO, 1987).
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. Henry Redaelli, MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”