How people identify themselves, who they think they are, is being specifically challenged because of the free-fall our economy is experiencing. People who thought they were secure in their job, a lawyer or a banker or an investment adviser, have lost their jobs, are now questioning their identity. People who thought they had wisely invested and were financially secure have found a substantial portion of that security, if not all of it, has disappeared. All of their world views have dramatically shifted making many of their human presumptions and understandings about who they are questionable. These are hugely hurtful and stressful times in people's lives for the ground they thought they were solidly standing on has dramatically shifted.
Peter identifies Jesus as Messiah today in our Gospel reading from Mark. Jesus responds by telling them to keep quiet about that and then proceeds to tell his disciples about what is coming: his torture, death and resurrection. They don't respond overwhelmingly well to this news: the ground they thought they were securely standing on was moving under their feet. Jesus then tells the crowd and his disciples to redirect their focus in life, to think about the world differently. He tells them they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow. That they must lose their life in order to save it. These are painful decisions Jesus is demanding of his followers; they must change how they understand the world and not rely on and try to gain the whole world for Jesus says there is the strong risk that we will forfeit our life if that is our focus.
Greed has been with us from the beginning or our creation. This human desire on our part is something innate within us and Jesus recognizes that and is telling us to understand that part of our human nature. Yet Jesus gives us something to hold onto in that desire's place when he says Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. Jesus is announcing today the arrival of the kingdom of God because of what is going to happen to him in Jerusalem. We are in the kingdom of God right now....all of us. That kingdom can only be formed, continued, tasted, by our active involvement and understanding that earthly things fade away, this kingdom does not. It's up to us. This is not an easy refocusing of our lives that Jesus demands today, but this is a necessary refocusing for many of us if we are to try and make any sense of what is happening all around us and pick ourselves up and follow.
Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.