Daily Reflection
September 17th, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 
Psalms 116:1-9
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35

On my computer there is a little button that can make everything centered on the page.  I use it to begin this article.  The word “center” is quite, should we say, central, in our culture.  There is “Centering Prayer” and all kinds of shops and stores that are now “Centers”, Home Centers, Appliances Centers and our homes may have Entertainment Centers where the TV, stereo and VCR reside together.

In our First Reading for today, we hear Isaiah again speaking of how centered the Messiah will be.  He will continue trusting the Lord even when he receives beatings and is disgraced.  The Messiah is pictured as having heard and this allows Him to stay focused and not turn back.  

This reading is part of what we hear as the First Reading for Palm Sunday.  It is a prediction of the treatment, which Jesus, as Messiah will experience.  We can picture this prophesy’s being fulfilled as He gets hit from the back, spit on from the side, His beard pulled from in front and He stays faithful.  Perhaps each of us is a “Faith-Center” or a “Trust-Center” when we live the words, which close this reading, “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?” 

We have in today’s Gospel the high-point of the big secret.  Up to this point in Mark’s account, the Disciples have marveled at Jesus’ ability to calm storms, multiply bread, heal the sick and speak with authority, but they haven’t been asked directly who they know Jesus to be.  Once they would come right out and declare themselves, well that would center their focus and consequently, their lives.

It is an intimate time and Jesus asks them first about what others might be thinking about Him.  After they give their report, Jesus puts the big question to them, “But who do you say that I am?”   Peter answers, “You are the Christ”.  Peter is centered in his faith with these words, but the next time we hear him speak he has lost focus and trust.

Jesus begins telling His faith-centered band that as Messiah, as the Christ, He will have to suffer rejection and be killed.  You can almost hear the double take as their heads jerk back in confusion.  Peter, thrown by these words, takes Jesus aside and tries to reestablish sanity in the mind of Jesus and peace in the hearts of His followers.  As is said these days, “We’re there” with Peter.  We have a better way than suffering and dying so cruelly.  

Peter and the others haven’t heard the worst of it yet.  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  This sounds all right until it comes time for the crosses of our lives and then we want to take Jesus aside.  We can speak so directly from our humanity, but that is what Peter just did and he got told, “You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do.”  “What is wrong with that,” we might ask.  

What centered Jesus was trusting, even though that trust, He knew, was heading Him for trouble of the worst kind.  We, on the other hand, by our human nature, center ourselves on different expectations and desires.  We want life, liberty and the pursuit of what we decide is happiness.  These are so central to us that we can not imagine a God Who wouldn’t see things our ways.  We want to trust God, but not in the most important areas of our lives.  God wants nothing more from us than to trust God’s love and care for us precisely in the areas of life, independence and what is pleasing to us.  

So that’s the cross we are to pick up each day; honestly embracing all that is important to us is the horizontal part of the cross and how God’s ways move us to let some self-centeredness go.  

The cross, which centered Jesus and His trust-walk towards it, uncenters us so easily as it does to Peter today.  The great comfort is that this God Who wants to be trusted in the most important experiences of our lives, is also most gracious and forgiving when we do our double takes and begin our arguing about not being fare.  Staying centered is our direction, experiencing our being unfocused is our cross.  There is another little button on my computer which “refreshes the screen”.  Though we will have fears and times of distrust, it is a wonderful consolation that we are central to God and that is why Jesus never had to refresh His screen or center His text.  With Him it is always “yes”, as He trusted even on to His cross. 
“O God, how much we value your mercy!”

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