On this 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, our readings focus on what we call the “cost of discipleship”. It is a reminder that when we choose to become Christian, a follow of Jesus, we also take up his Cross.
The Word for the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Our first reading is from the prophet Zechariah. In this reading the prophet has God pouring out a “sprit of grace” on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, as they mourn the loose of that “whom they have pierced.” What exactly is going on here? Reading this through a Christian prism, we readily recognize the pierced one as Jesus… the one whom we “pierced.” We must take the blame for his crucifixion, mourning the loss as one “grieves over a firstborn.” Yet the prophet continues to tell us that God’s mercy is still at our call, “a fountain to purify from sin…” through Jesus.
So while the outward message is pretty clear (we grieve the loss of this chosen one, but from this God forgives us), but the exegesis of this reading is somewhat challenging. With the reminder of “the house of David”, we readily think of last week’s reading where God (eventually) forgives David of the sin of getting Uriah killed by the Ammonites (and the rest of the Bathsheba affair). David life is generally dated from 1040 to 970 BCE, but the prophet Zechariah comes from post-exile Jerusalem which dates almost 500 years later. So what’s really going on here? With the Israelites freshly returned to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile, Zechariah sees the people falling away from God, and back into their sinful ways that caused them to be exiled in the first place. This reading, taken from his Oracles concerning the nation of Judah, Zechariah is reminding us this will lead to great mourning, but still, God will grant his mercy (the same mercy he showed David) if they change their ways and return to the Lord.
Our second reading continues our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Here Paul reminds us that once we are baptized into Christ, we cease to be who we were, and become part of the Body of Christ. Who we were is now inconsequential, for now, through Christ, we are all descendents of Abraham and heirs to that covenant.
Our gospel from Luke begins with Jesus alone with his disciples. He takes the opportunity to query them about the crowds and who they think he is. After an assortment of answers, Jesus then asked the disciples directly, who they think he is. It is here that Peter speaks up and attests that Jesus is the Christ, whereupon Jesus immediately enjoins them to stay silent on this point. Why would he want to have them keep quiet about this? Isn’t this the whole point of his mission? Jesus doesn’t want this to get out because he fears for the lives of his Apostles. Jesus knows that he’s going to be persecuted and killed, and telling them just so. Further, just as he knows he’s going to suffer and die, that same fate, he tells them, will also befall his followers.
Living openly as a Christian may not be as dangerous as it was in the 1st century, but even in 21st century America Christians are routinely ridiculed and mis-understood, and Catholics are regular targets for hate-speech in a variety of public forums. Living a life of loving God and loving our neighbors sounds like it should be simple… yet even contemporary society tends to reject this ideal. Society tells us that we should be selfish. “What’s in it for me,” is the common question. Jesus, however, teaches us to be selfless. Instead of asking “what’s in it for me?” we should be asking “what can I do for you?”