September 16, 2012
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Rev. Fr. Generoso "Gener" Geronimo, Episcopal Vicar for the Diocesan Clergy
Bahay-Pari, San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex, EDSA Guadalupe
(9am Sunday Mass at the Greenbelt Chapel, Makati)
Second Reading: James 2:14-18
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
27 And Jesus went on with his disciples, to the villages of Caesare'a Philip'pi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" 28 And they told him, "John the Baptist; and others say, Eli'jah; and others one of the prophets." 29 And he asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ." 30 And he charged them to tell no one about him. 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter, and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men." 34 And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
My dear brothers and sisters, I would like ask a very important question - a question of faith. Do you really know Jesus? Do you really know the Lord? And I think when we answer that question, we could look into ourselves, into our heart, and make an honest answer or response to that question. If in case we do not have that knowledge of Jesus, it is also important to ask - do you want to know Jesus? But why? Why do you want to know the Lord?
In our Gospel reading, it is understandable that we come to know Jesus through what we hear about Jesus. Perhaps, many times, we hear about the Lord from others - from our parents, from our loved ones, from our friends, from our neighbors. I know Jesus because I heard about Jesus. And based on this knowledge of Jesus, we can easily answer the question "Who do people say that I am"? The knowledge of Jesus is based on popular opinion - kung ano ang sinasabi ng karamihan tungkol kay Hesus.
The disciples answered Jesus, the way people thought of Jesus. And Jesus was identified to John the Baptist, to Elijah or to one of the prophets. Jesus does not refute the answer, but for Jesus, it is not enough. It is not enough for us to know Jesus only because we hear about Jesus from others. Jesus turned to His disciples and asked a personal question - "Who do you say that I am?" From "Who do people say that I am" to "Who do YOU say that I am?" "Sino ako para sa iyo?" And Peter responded to the question by making a profession of faith. "Jesus, You are the Christ. Jesus, You are the Son of God." And Jesus said, true enough, "I am the Christ, I am the Son of God". He made an affirmation of the faith of Peter. But this faith of Peter did not come from others' perception of Jesus. And Jesus would like to clarify that. And this is the important thing about the Gospel. Jesus said, "Peter, this is not because of what you think of Me, but this is because God has revealed this to you."
I think, brothers and sisters, that is something very important in our faith, in our knowledge about Jesus. Why? Jesus tells us that our knowledge of Him is something that does not come from a human being, but rather it is a gift that comes from God. And that is very important. It is not based on popular opinion, but rather is rooted in an experiential knowledge of the Lord. And that experience of the Lord is God's gift to you - His gift to us. Faith is a gift that comes from God.
Mayroon po ba tayong malalim na karanasan kay Hesus? Why are we hearing mass - is it because we need to fulfill an obligation, or is it because I am here because I experience the Lord? And if you have an experience of the Lord, every Sunday, every day of your life, you have the gift of faith. Biyaya ng pananampalataya. And if you have that gift of faith, Jesus said, you are standing on rock. Nakatayo ka sa matibay na bato. That is why Jesus said to Peter, "You are Rock, and on this Rock I will build my church." Which means Peter has now become a stepping stone to faith. Ikaw ay batong kinatatayuan ng pananampalataya. A firm faith, a strong faith with a strong foundation. Is that the kind of faith that we have?
But there is another thing about the Gospel. Here, Jesus is teaching us that faith is not just an emotional thing that makes us feel good. When Jesus started to talk about suffering, about His death, look at the reaction of Peter. Peter said, "Lord, that will never happen." "That is not the kind of knowledge that I have about you. That is not my perception about the Messiah. The Messiah is always victorious. The Messiah never stutters." Then Jesus reacted to that. He said, "Get behind me, Satan." Look - there is now a change in name. Peter first was called a Rock, a stepping stone to faith. Now, Jesus calls him Satan, which means "you are a stumbling block". Ibig sabihin, kinatitisurang bato - nagiging hadlang sa pananampalataya.
I think that is why we need to have a good examination of ourselves - baka ako ay nagiging kinatitisurang bato ng pananampalataya. Nagiging iskandalo ang aking pananampalataya. Instead of becoming a stepping stone for people to get closer to the Lord, I am becoming a stumbling block - nagiging hadlang. Why? It is because, we are not thinking according to God, but we are thinking according to our human perception. Mga kapatid, that is what we need to look into ourselves. Next month, Pope Benedict will open the Year of Faith. And it begins by saying "open the door of faith", which means, this is the time for us now to become stepping stones. Naririto si Hesus, nakikilala ko si Hesus, nararanasan ko si Hesus. Then, lead others to Jesus. Become a stepping stone to Jesus toward the Lord. Baka mamaya, ikaw ay nagiging hadlang sa pagpasok sa pinto ng pananampalataya. Why? It is because we are not living our Christian life, our Christian faith.
What kind of faith do we have? Am I a stepping stone that leads others to Jesus, or am I a stumbling block - hadlang sa pagpasok ng kapwa kay Hesus? As we come together celebrating our experience of Jesus in this Eucharist, let us ask for that grace, "Lord, renew my faith. Let this faith be a gift. Let this faith be an experiential gift. Let this faith be a stepping stone for others to come to know You, Amen."