Sunday, June 20, 2010

The authentic way of discipleship

It was in the context of prayer in solitude that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” It was Peter who replied: “The Christ of God.” “The word ‘Christ’ comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew Messiah, which means ‘anointed.’ It became the name proper to Jesus only because he accomplished perfectly the divine mission that ‘Christ’ signifies.” (CCC, 436) Oftentimes, the idea of being the “anointed one” is associated with the idea of privilege and influence. Perhaps this became the reason why the disciples would later on quarrel among themselves for privileged positions in the kingdom of Christ – the honor of being seated at his right and at his left. They misunderstood Jesus’ anointing as something merely political. Our Lord was not about to take this misunderstanding lightly.

“Jesus accepted Peter’s profession of faith, which acknowledged him to be the Messiah, by announcing the imminent Passion of the Son of Man”: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” Offhand, this is definitely not the way we imagine the anointed One to be. In the language of the world, the anointed one must be busy preparing for his inauguration, must be cloaked with trappings of power and dignity. But such is the anointed of the world, not the anointed of God. The Anointed of God is stripped and humiliated, made to suffer mockery and dishonored in the eyes of men. The Catechism of the Church says, “He unveiled the authentic content of his messianic Kingdom both in the transcendent identity of the Son of Man ‘who came down from heaven,’ and in redemptive mission as the Suffering Servant: ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ Hence, the true meaning of his kingship is revealed only when he is raised high on the Cross. Only after his Resurrection will Peter be able to proclaim Jesus’ messianic kingship to the People of God: ‘Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made his both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’” (CCC, 440)

It is only when we see Jesus in his suffering and death that we shall understand the fullest implication of his identity as “The Christ of God.” Any way of portraying Christ severed from his Cross is a deception. The real Christ of God is the one whom he sent to suffer and die so as to rise again. The true Christ cannot be separated from his Cross. The Cross is the mark of authentication of the real Jesus who is the Christ.

So is also the Cross the mark of the authentication of the disciple of the Christ: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Thomas a Kempis said, “The higher a person is advanced in spirit the heavier the crosses shall he often meet.” Also he adds, “Jesus has many lovers of his heavenly kingdom, but few that are willing to bear His cross. He has many that are desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions of his table, but few of his abstinence. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to suffer with Him…Many reverence His miracles but few follow the ignominy of His Cross.” (Imitation of Christ 11) That is why very few follow him along the authentic road of discipleship. However, we should keep in mind that just as the spirit of grace and petition can be poured upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem only because the anointed One has been pierced, so also it is only by following him along this way of the Cross that one can truly possess the eternal life that He promises. “In the Cross is the height of virtue; in the perfection of sanctity. There is no health of souls nor hope of eternal life but in the Cross,” (Imitation of Christ, 12) The Lord said, “For whosoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

1 comment:

  1. Indeed Father. A great reflection this is. We follow Christ and bear the Cross for as His disciples, we embark on a journey of complete fidelity to Him despite all the trials in this earth. True enough, for as Christians we are tested through fire and this should stand as our badge of honour as believers in Christ and His Church.

    (Of course, I myself do regress in this thought every now and then but I pray for God's grace that I may remember His exhortations to holiness everyday.)

    God bless po.