Saturday, June 18, 2016

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Angry Savior

If you listened carefully to our Gospel reading today you might have noticed something strange. Here is that passage which was read and may cause surprise to an observant listener. "Then he (Jesus) said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter said in reply, 'The Christ of God.' He scolded them and directed them not to tell this to anyone."

You heard it correctly, Jesus scolded his disciples after Peter told him that for them he was the Christ of God. In a parallel passage in Matthew Peter was praised after his confession that Jesus was the Christ of God. There Jesus told Peter, "Blest are you, Simon, son of Jonah!" Then Jesus declared that Peter was rock on which he would build his church.

So you ask this question? Did Jesus scold his disciples or did he praise Peter? The answer is both. He praised Peter and then he scolded his disciples. In the harmonization or combination of the Gospel passages by Johnston M. Cheney in his book entitled THE LIFE OF CHRIST IN STEREO it is shown that Peter was praised first and then the disciples were scolded.

But why were the disciples scolded? The original Greek word used here for "scolded" is "epitimeysas". This Greek word can mean to censure, rebuke, admonish. In the New American Bible Revised Edition which we use for our Gospel reading it is translated as "scolded". In the preceding edition of the New American Bible, that is, before the revision this was translated "strictly forbade them". In the Authorized Version it is translated as "straitly charged them". In the Revised Standard Version it is translated as "sternly ordered". Not one of these translations give us the first meaning of "epitimeysas" which is "honoring, praising". The root word "timein" basically means to set a value or price, to honor.

Here we have again that strange character of some Greek words which can mean two things at the same time, depending on the context. The most famous of these Greek words is "anothen" which can mean "from above" or "again". Thus Jesus said, Unless a man be born anothen he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Some translated anothen here as "again". So unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Our New American Bible translates anothen here as "from above". Both are correct translations.

As we can now see tradition has considered this word "epitimeysas" to mean scolding, reprimanding, strictly forbidding. Jesus is portrayed here as giving strict instruction to his disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ of God, the anointed leader of God whom the Israelites had been expecting for more than 400 years.

Our Gospel reading tells us that Jesus scolded his disciples. This is one meaning of the word "epitimeysas". And we know that the meaning of "to scold" is "to find fault angrily".

Jesus had the right to be angry with those whom he told not to reveal who he really was. Before this passage in the Gospel according to Luke it is recorded that Jesus told several persons not to tell anyone what he did or who he was.

The first is in chapter 2 where he rebuked demons and did not allow them to speak that he was the Christ or Messiah. The second is in chapter 5 where he told a leper not to tell anyone about Jesus but the result was that, as Luke tells us, his reputation spread more and more. Probably the leper did not follow Jesus' instruction and so his reputation as a healer spread. Luke then adds that Jesus retired to desert places and prayed. It seemed that Jesus was forced to do this because so many people knew about him and were coming to him. The third is in chapter 8 where Jesus told the people who witnessed his raising of Jairus' daughter to life not to tell anyone what had happened. Besides these three recorded instances there might have been other occasions when Jesus told his disciples not to tell anyone what he was doing or who he was but instead they published it anyway. That is why now he was angry at people who did not follow his instruction to keep his real identity a secret.

Jesus did become angry several times. The most obvious of these was when he drove out the merchants and money changers in the temple precincts (John 2:13-17). Sometimes his anger drove him to tears. As he began to see Jerusalem from a distance he wept over it because of its unbelief (Luke 19:41).

Jesus exemplified the injunction of Paul the Apostle to be angry and sin not (Ephesians 4:26). In the book of Revelation he is portrayed as a man with a sharp, two-edged sword coming out of his mouth (1:16). This sight terrified John the writer of this book even though he had known Jesus as the most loving of all persons he ever met.

Jesus is still the same today. He is angry at what is happening to us, to his beloved church, to his faithful followers. He is angry at us who insist on sinning, on not believing in him, on keeping a pretense of a good life but deep inside are rebels against God. Time and again through his saints he has warned us of the impending danger the world is facing. But we have turned a deaf ear. The wars in the middle ages and into the modern times testify to our disobedience of his command to love one another as he has loved us. The two world wars were begun and waged by people who externally professed they were Christians.

Jesus is moved to tears at the inhumanity we experience today, women and children sold into prostitution, women raped and murdered, men thrown to live in dehumanizing environment where their labors are not given wages enough to live a dignified life.

But Jesus also gives hope. He is angry because he wants us to turn to him and live the way he wants us to live. He wants us to go to him and embrace his cross. The invitation is still there for us to listen to and obey: "Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light" Matthew 11:28-29).

Let us pray as we bow our heads. Lord Jesus, you are an angry God, angry at our foolishness and unbelief and disobedience. We come to you in repentance. Have mercy on us. Amen.

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