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12th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The Suffering Servant.  The prophet Isaiah gave us this vision of the Son of Man in his four “servant songs.”  An image that we Christians can rightly see in Jesus.  Isaiah is telling us that the Servant of God, this Chosen One, is going to suffer...  Not necessarily because God wants him to suffer, but because God’s message is going to bring him persecution, suffering, and death.  It is hard to deliver a message that no one wants to hear, as we learn from this week’s readings:

Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1
Psalm 636:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Galatians 3:26-29
Luke 9:18-24

Our first reading is from the book of the prophet Zechariah.  It speaks of a great suffering that will be faced by the House of David and Jerusalem.  Where is this prophecy coming from?  If we don’t pay attention to the context of the reading, we can to easily misinterpret the prophet’s intent.  Zechariah’s oracle against the “House of David” does not mean David himself, but instead it’s an indictment of the monarchy itself, and the long line of kings since David that failed to follow the Lord.  Those of us who attended Mass last Sunday can be forgiven for confusing this oracle as being against David himself, since last Sunday’s reading was about God’s disappointment with David for the whole Bathsheba affair… an incident that lead to forgiveness.  Today’s passage from Zechariah comes much later, from the early post-Exile era.  Here the prophet is reminding the people that there will be great mourning, such as when King Josiah (the great reformer who was killed near Megiddo not long before the destruction and Exile of Jerusalem).  But as our reading suggests, all is not lost, because from the House of David there will be “a fountain to purify from sin.”  Our Psalm reflects the prophet’s and the people’s desire to return to the Lord as we sing, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”

Our Gospel from Luke also comes with a warning… from Jesus to his Apostles and followers.  That just as he will suffer, so will they.  Our passage from Luke comes from a point still fairly early in his ministry.  So far things have gone well, and they have made some progress spreading the Good News and gaining followers.  After a moment of prayer, Jesus gathers his disciples and asks them “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  Clearly the people see him as a great prophet, but then he turns the question directly to them and asks, “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter is first to admit that he is indeed the Christ.  Jesus warns them not to tell anyone, and tells them of the fate which he awaits.  If that were not bad enough, Jesus also tells them that they too will have their crosses to bear, but in doing so, will also attain salvation.

Our second reading, not directly related to our other readings, is a continuation of our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  Here Paul reminds us that there is no more Jew or Greek, but that we are all one through our faith in Christ, and that through Christ, we also inherit the promise of Abraham.  We are all children of the one God.

Final thoughts:

We all have our crosses to bear.  As Christians we all know of the images of Jesus carrying his cross, falling three times, needing the assistance of some along the way to his crucifixion and death.  Our first reading today from the prophet Zechariah says, “they shall look on him whom they have pierced…” the same line we hear again in John’s Gospel in his account of the Passion.  Jesus warned that those who follow him can face a similar fate.  Most of us today don’t fear being crucified or killed for going to church, but we still face a secular backlash for our beliefs.  In a society that craves and worships its idols (celebrity, power, money), we believe in equality and equity.  We believe that only God is above all others.  In a society that prizes self reliance, we believe in helping one another.  In a society that marginalizes whole groups of people, due to race, religion, or other circumstances, we have been taught to love one another.  Even now as our country addresses issues of extremism and the violence that it brings, we Christians must bear our crosses, look beyond the chaos, and continue to follow Christ, demonstrating every day the peace, the love, and the mercy which he showed.  Not only will we build a better world, but it will bring our own salvation.


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