June 19 2016 (C) Twelfth Sunday of Year

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Prayer and our self-awareness as children of God

A. The Bible as Guide in Life and Liturgy (Sunday Readings)

First Reading (Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1). They will look on the one whom they have pierced. The last chapters of the book of the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah chapters 9-14) are probably the latest sections of the Old Testament to have been composed. The authors of these chapters are the spiritual heirs and disciples of the sixth-century prophet Zechariah. It is recognized that the pictures of the messianic Prince of Peace and of the good shepherd rejected by his sheep, remarkably foreshadow the New Testament delineation of Christ. The book (chapters 12-14) ends with a vision of the coming of the great day of the Lord, when God shall cleanse Jerusalem from sin and reign over all the earth. There will be an outpouring of the spirit over the Davidic dynasty and the holy city Jerusalem, a spirit of kindness and of prayer. This outpouring of the spirit leads the people to mourn a martyr whom they have pierced to death. We are not told who for the first readers this martyr was, but it still may be a vision of the future. It will be a deep mourning, compared to the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The reference may be to a ritual pagan mourning of Baal, Hadadrimmon, a dying and rising god of fertility. The mourning in Judah and Jerusalem, however, will be for the unnamed pierced martyr. The vision of the future Judah and Jerusalem is one of a purified people, symbolized by the purifying fountain, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 62[63]). For you my soul is thirsting. O God, my God.

Second Reading (Galatians 3:26-29). All baptized in Christ. you have all clothed yourselves in Christ. Because of the danger posed by the Jewish Christians who wanted to impose circumcision and observance of the Mosaic Law on Paul’s converts in Galatia, the first part of his letter to them dealt mainly with salvation through faith and not racial descent from Abraham. Throughout this letter, however, Paul’s main concern was the new life in Christ, and his central assertion that the true heirs of Abraham were those who like Abraham, believed in God, that is these were Christ and his followers, not those of racial descent as in the case of the Jews. Paul stresses all this in today’s reading. Through faith in Christ believers are sons and daughters of God. In the early baptism rite the candidates divested themselves of all their clothing, symbolizing the end of one stage of life and the beginning of another. By baptism they clothe themselves with a new life, with Christ. By putting aside their clothing they symbolically set aside all distinctions, to become one new person in Christ. Paul lists some: Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. Only Jew and Greek really mattered. The others were beyond Paul’s and believers’ control. A major question was: Who are the true descendants of Abraham, Jews or Christians. Paul’s reply is that faith, the faith of Abraham, is what counts, and believers in Christ, are the seed, the progeny, of Abraham.

The Gospel (Luke 9:18-24). You are the Christ. The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously. The account of Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus is best known through the account of Matthew, with the promise to him of the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:13-20). For all the first three gospels the episode is the turning point in the gospel narrative. Matthew and Mark tell us that this episode occurred Caesarea Philippi, a place not mentioned by Luke. Luke highlights the importance of the event by noting that Jesus put the question to his disciples as he was praying alone. Jesus’ prayer meant union with his Father at key moments of his ministry. Luke makes special mention of this prayer of Jesus: at his baptism (3:21); after intense ministry of healing (5:16); before his choice of the Twelve (6:12); at his transfiguration |(9:28-29); prayer of thanksgiving to the Father (10:21); on teaching how to pray to the Father (11:1); for Peter’s safety against Satan (22:32); in Gethsemane (22:40-46); at his crucifixion (23:34, 46). Jesus’ question to his disciples came shortly after a similar question had been made by Herod Antipas on Jesus’ identity and a similar answer given (Luke 9:7-9). Before this, the demons had acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God. This is the first admission of Jesus’ messianic role by the apostles, through Peter. The admission leads to Jesus’ first statement to his chosen apostles concerning his coming passion and death (condemned by the Sanhedrin, composed of the elders, chief priests and scribes), followed by an address to all who would wish to be his followers. They, too, like him will have to take up their cross (metaphorically) every day and die to all sin and passions that would separate them from him.

B. Reflection & Dialogue: Prayer and our self-awareness as children of God

Today’s readings present an occasion for us to reflect on three important points, namely self-awareness of our Christian dignity as children, sons and daughters, of God; on the demands made by our Christian belief as followers of Christ, and finally on the need of prayer, private as well as public, to keep our Christian self-awareness alive.

Jesus Christ is, and must be, the centre of Christian belief, not the “institutional” church, human icons or role models, but always Jesus Christ who died for us, rose from the dead and is at the right hand of the Father praying for us and the success of the Church’s mission. By baptism we are united in a special way with Christ and are expected to be aware of this. This is not something that people speak about among themselves, but it is basic to our Christian faith, even though it may not be easy today to get this point across.

The apostles’ profession of faith in Jesus as the Christ, the messiah, was a high point in the Gospel narrative. Jesus is quickly at pains to dispel any triumphalism possibly arising from this on the apostles’ part, or on the part of any of those who believed in him. To be acknowledged as the Christ, the hope of so many ages, the one that was to come, may indeed have been a great honour, and could have aroused pride and political expectations in any Jewish heart, apostle, follower of Christ or not. But Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, would have in God’s plan to tread a different road – one of a humiliating suffering and death, although to be followed by the resurrection. Jesus was sinless, but his path to death would set a model for all his followers: they too would have to die to sin and sinful ways. The Christian message is a call, a vocation, to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world, by a life in keeping with the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount and the Gospel message. It is not about prestige or adapting to any current way of thinking at variance with the Gospel message.

This takes us to the third point. To keep this awareness alive it is necessary to have a life of prayer, private prayer as well as public; or private prayer alone for those who are loath to attend Mass or religious services. Private prayer can take many forms, such as reading the Scriptures, if needs be in conjunction with the Sunday reading, with the aid of simple explanations. The use of prayer books, with the basic and other prayers, is not to be ruled out. What is important is that this need of prayer and reflection to keep alive our Christian calling and vocation are called for. How best do this remains for communities, families and individuals to determine.

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