This Sunday’ Gospel (Luke 9: 18-27) is a turning point in the life and mission of Christ, as we have Christ predicting for the first time His passion, death and resurrection.
The passage is also one of three important passages in Luke 9. The section before this passage is the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish and the one that comes after is The Transfiguration. All three are “foundational mysteries” of our faith: the Mass in the Multiplication (Luke 9: 10-17), the Paschal Mystery in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 9:18-24) and the hope in our future glory with God in the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36).
These mysteries define a meaningful and grace-filled Christian life in the day to day—especially Christ’s final invitation in this Sunday’s Gospel, “follow me.”
The Gospel also poses the important question before we can follow Christ: “But who do you say that I am?” Who is Christ to us in a personal way? The center of our life is our relationship with God. Who is he to us?
I once cited Fr. Herb Alfonso’s book, “Discovering Your Personal Vocation,” where he says that our mission in life is to live out the quality of our relationship with Christ.
The question in the Gospel—“But who do you say that I am?” confronts us with the million-dollar question: What is our mission in life? The emphasis though here is to live out this mission according to Christ’s life and mission.
Learning to love our enemies
But this can be hard especially in the Gospel last Tuesday where Christ prescribes what probably is one of the most difficult Christian imperatives: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5: 44)
I have always struggled with this. At times I say, “It’s hard. I pray for the grace to be given to me.”
Tuesday I caught a glimpse of “the way” to follow and live out this Christian imperative. It is only by following Christ that this seems to make sense.
There was trigger to this enlightenment of the “eye of the heart” and to realize in one’s heart and soul that to follow Christ, his way of the Cross, was the only way.
After close to a decade, I realized there was no way the human mind and logic could make sense of this Christian imperative and live it out; not in the day to day, more so not in the moments your enemies persecute you.
As I reflected on these words at Mass, “… then you realize that the only way to love your enemy and pray for your persecutors is through Christ, through your following Christ; the man who on the Cross, in the lonely and painful solitude of the Cross, turns to his Father and prays for his persecutors and asks for forgiveness on their behalf,” Then I felt something in me started to heal. It felt liberating.
The succeeding days I continued to feel the pain that comes with the healing. Perhaps this is to help us both understand and remember that to follow Christ is, in the words of Henri Nouwen, to be a “wounded healer.”
In joy and peace, we deny “our self” and take up our Cross. Somehow with this grace, we heal—“our self” and the world entrusted to us.