There goes Jesus being apparently secretive again in this week’s Gospel, similar to last week. Last week in the curing of the deaf and mute man, our Lord instructed all those in attendance of that miracle to not tell anyone what just happened. They didn’t listen to him. They told everyone they met how they just won the Powerball. Hopefully, the Disciples did a better job at keeping quiet about Jesus being the Christ.
Again, his apparent secretiveness concerns this issue of Jesus not being identified until he’s on the Cross. It’s in that moment in Mark’s Gospel where the bystanders see Jesus at his worse, but believers over the centuries see him at his best. The Cross is his highest moment because all the sins committed in the world’s history were nailed to the tree. All the small white lies that barely register a blip on the radar, to all the big ones that destroy the lives of other people in some violent form, be it verbal or physical.
The contradiction of the Cross, it’s called by many Christians. The contradiction that when Jesus looks his ugliest, sort of what we look like when we wake up in the morning, that’s when he’s at his most stunning, his greatest look of beauty. The contradiction that when he appears to be at his weakest moment in 33 years of living, he’s at his strongest. And what makes that incredible contradiction possible, is sacrifice.
At the heart of Jesus’ apparent secretiveness is the issue of spiritual maturity. He wants them not to tell anyone who he is because they themselves are not prepared to share this message that our God is a crucified God. The Disciples are not spiritually mature enough for this message of truth. Much of our world today still laughs at such foolishness. “Look at those Catholics. They worship a guy who was crucified. They worship a criminal, a dead man.”
We see this important element to our faith playing out in this week’s Gospel. Peter worships Jesus, just like we do. “You are the Christ,” he says. If “Who do you sat that I am?” were the only question on the exam, then Peter passed with flying colors. “You are the Christ.”
Those are words of worship that I pray we repeat also; “Lord Jesus, you are the Christ, the Anointed One of God. This is the first reason why I follow you.” We all have that in common. We’re one, big happy family with that Jesus thought. But when our Lord starts yakking about his future death, Peter says, “That’s not who I want to worship. I like you just the way you are, Jesus. Upright and healthy. Make sure you live to be 140 years old. Please don’t die shortly.” Spiritual immaturity.
I can understand why people fear death in the way that Peter feared Jesus’ future crucifixion. Like Peter, there’s always that seed of doubt, that little piece of crumb off the cracker, that tells us we don’t know what’s on the other side. Is there anything on the other side? Do we die and that’s it? No Wright’s Chicken Farm in heaven because there is no heaven? Well, if that’s the case, then I better eat as much as I can on this side. Maybe that’s why I do.
Spiritual maturity is not only a grace that allows us to hold fast to a faith that teaches us to believe some pretty amazing things. Such as eternal peace; no more pain; no more bad relationships; no more disease; the vision of the unapproachable beauty of God; the Reunion; the infinite joy; the resurrected body that will never die again, unlike Lazarus who did. Spiritual maturity is also the willingness to take up our own cross and follow after him.
There are many concerns in the Church right now. We are still willing with heavy hearts to follow after him. That speaks well to all of you. But there are also many crosses in each of our personal lives, some crosses being heavier for some folks than for others. And where that happens to be the situation, we apply the words of St. James that have no secrets to them; “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” From the works that assist others who carry heavier and more crosses than we ourselves carry.
To have a Christian vision in our faith journey that sees the struggles of the poor and those hurting in a thousand different ways. And take that vision and do the work on behalf of someone else as Christ did the work for us.
Spiritual maturity doesn’t run away from Christ like Peter and the rest of them did when our Lord was falsely arrested. It doesn’t run away from Him when times get tough. Spiritual maturity follows him to the Cross, like Mary his Mother and Mary Magdalene, knowing life is a gift, and that eternal life awaits.
“You are the Christ.” Follow him to the end. Great things await.