Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9
Mark 8:27-35 (see also “Finding Christ in the Psalms”)
In today's Gospel, we reach a pivotal moment in our walk with the Lord. After weeks of listening to His words and witnessing His deeds, along with the disciples we're asked to decide who Jesus truly is.
Peter answers for them, and for us, too, when he declares: “You are the Messiah.”
Many expected the Messiah to be a miracle worker who would vanquish Israel's enemies and restore the kingdom of David (see John 6:15).
Jesus today reveals a different portrait. He calls himself the Son of Man, evoking the royal figure Daniel saw in his heavenly visions (see Daniel 7:13-14). But Jesus' kingship is not to be of this world (see John 18:36). And the path to His throne, as He reveals, is by way of suffering and death.
Jesus identifies the Messiah with the suffering servant that Isaiah foretells in today's First Reading. The words of Isaiah's servant are Jesus' words — as He gives himself to be shamed and beaten, trusting that God will be His help. We hear our Lord's voice again in today's Psalm, as He gives thanks that God has freed Him from the cords of death.
As Jesus tells us today, to believe that He is the Messiah is to follow His way of self-denial — losing our lives to save them, in order to rise with Him to new life. Our faith, we hear again in today's Epistle, must express itself in works of love (see Galatians 5:6).
Notice that Jesus questions the apostles today “along the way.” They are on the way to Jerusalem, where the Lord will lay down His life. We, too, are on a journey with the Lord.
We must take up our cross, giving to others and enduring all our trials for His sake and the sake of the gospel.
Our lives must be an offering of thanksgiving for the new life He has given us, until that day when we reach our destination, and walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
Finding Christ in the Psalms
Jesus taught His Apostles that the Book of Psalms speaks of Him and His mission. “Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled,” He told them on the night of His Resurrection (see Luke 24:44).
Jesus applied specific Psalms to himself (see Matthew 21:42-44 and 22:41-46). So did the apostles in their preaching and writings (see Acts 2:25-35 and Hebrews 1:5-14).
This ancient practice continues in the liturgy. In the Psalms chosen for Sunday Mass readings, sometimes the Church invites us to hear a direct reference to Christ. Other times, we're invited to hear the voice of Christ crying out to the Father. And still other times, we hear the Father talking to the Son.
Psalm 54 is heard this way in the readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Originally sung by David when he was betrayed by the Ziphites (see 1 Samuel 23:19-25 and 26:1-3), we're invited to hear the Psalm as a confident appeal by Christ in His Passion: “Fierce men seek My life…Behold…the Lord sustains My life.”
The same is true of the use of Psalm 116 in the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B). We hear our Lord's voice as He gives thanks that God has rescued Him, freed His soul from death and the snares of the nether world.