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Twelfth Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: Zech 12:10-11; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24.
1/ Reading I: RSV Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. 11 On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
2/ Reading II: RSV Galatians 3:26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 9:18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” 20 And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”
I. THEME: Recognizing Christ and doing what he teaches.
To become Christ’s true disciple, one needs to do three things: First, one must recognize who is he, his important position in one’s life and his teaching. Secondly, one must wish to follow him and to do what he teaches. Lastly, one must do what he teaches. This is a difficult process and can’t be done with human power; but God not only bestows necessary graces through Christ’s merit, but also sends His Spirit into human mind to help them to recognize, to desire and to do what Christ teaches.
Today readings help us to recognize this process. In the first reading, the prophet Zechariah reported God’s plan of salvation for people. He shall give the spirit of grace and compassion upon David’s descendants and people of Jerusalem to help them to live according to God’s way and to have compassion. He also helps them to recognize and to lament him whom they pierced through is Christ so they could repent and receive the salvation. In the second reading, Paul helped the Galatian faithful to recognize that when they are baptized, they put on Christ. Therefore, they can’t discriminate or separate anyone because all are members of one Mystical Body which is the Church, with Christ the head. In the Gospel, though Peter recognized and proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah; but he isn’t ready to accept a Suffering Messiah. Christ encouraged his disciples to bravely accept the way of suffering to be his true disciples.
1/ Reading I: “When they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child.”
1.1/ Different manuscripts:
– The Masoretic Text (MT) and many old manuscripts have this sentence, “When they look on me whom they have pierced.” The object is the first person, common, regular; implied the One who said is the Lord. When John illustrated this verse, he wrote: “When they look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37). The object is the third person (adjective pronoun relative accusative masculine singular); the one who said is not God.
– The Septuagint (LXX) wrongly read the verb dqr which means to pierce through to be rqr which means to insult. The letters ‘d’ and ‘r’ are similarly written in Hebrew. Therefore, LXX translates this sentence as “They look on me whom they insulted.” Though wrongly read the verb, LXX likes MT, correctly reads the object at the first person.
– Hadadrimmon might be the god of storms (Hadad) or the official god of Damascus, Rimmon (2 Kgs 5:18), whose death is mourned every year when the weather is changed to the dry reason.
+ Megiddo lies on the main route that connects the north and the south of Palestine. It is the place of great religious or political fights in history. Josiah, a good king of the Israelites died here and they mourned his death.
1.2/ The theological meaning of the passage
(1) The spirit of blessing and prayer: Before God wants to destroy enemies to save people, He pours down the spirit of grace and compassion upon them. The spirit of grace implies a pleasant life to God (cf. Gen 6:8, 33:8, 34:11) to receive His blessing. The spirit of compassion helps people to recognize the truth and to ask for His mercy (2 Sam 12:22; Isa 27:11). To pray is an act that can’t be lacked in people’s life; but in order to properly pray, people need to be enlightened and guided by the Spirit.
The liberation and the blessing belong to God; but people need to recognize their necessaries by asking God to liberate or to give them blessing. God sends His spirit to help people to recognize the truth and the good, and to lead them to repentance (Eze 36:37). The prophet Isaiah announced the sending of the Spirit (Isa 44:3). This is God’s promise to send the Holy Spirit and all blessings which are resulted from Christ’s Passion and death. This promise is achieved when Jesus gave up his spirit on the cross (Jn 19:30), his breathing on his disciples (Jn 20:22) and especially at the Pentecost (Acts 2:4).
(2) On the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: Generally, the leaders of God’s people shall receive first the Holy Spirit as Jesus’ apostles did at the Pentecost, then this sending shall be extending to all people. Particularly, David’s house or “Son of David” implies Christ. The Spirit descends on Christ as the head of the body, and from him to all members of the body. The inhabitants of Jerusalem are not only people who live there, but also all people belong to the Church.
(3) They shall look on me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn: Why shall people mourn instead of rejoice? People mourn because they recognize the reason of Christ’s death is their sins. Those who had their parts in Christ’s death mourn because they crucified the only son of God. People of all generations continue to mourn because they continually betray God’s love for them. This is the reason why Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be consoled.” If they look up at the Crucified Christ and don’t recognize God’s love and their sins, how can they be saved?
– “They shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.” There is no pain greater than the pain of the parents who lost their only child. This sentence reminds us the Egyptians’ mourning when God’s angels were sent to kill all of their firstborn sons. It also reminds us the pain of mothers who lost their child when King Herode killed the children of Jerusalem and its vicinity from three years old down. The prophet Zechariah wanted to say that people must mourn for their sins as such because of their sins, Christ, the only son of God, was crucified to the cross and pierced through the heart by a soldier.
2/ Reading II: By faith all of you are all one in Christ Jesus.
2.1/ All of us are one in Christ.
(1) Christ unites us as one in his body: St. Paul said to the Galatian faithful, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Faith in Christ is required before one can be baptized. When people receive Baptism, the faithful become God’s children. St. Paul called those who were baptized as “have put on Christ;” this means they become a part or members of his body. It also means that they must put on all what belong to Christ, such as: love, truth and virtues.
(2) We shall not separate Christ’s body: If the faithful have become one in Christ’s body, they have a duty to build up his Mystical Body to reach the perfection. They can’t separate his body because of any reason such as: race, class or gender, as Paul said: “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
2.2/ You are heirs according to the promise: Paul continued, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Some Jewish Christians thought if the Gentile Christians want to become Abraham’s descendants, they must be circumcised as they did. St. Paul opposed this requirement in his Letter to the Galatians and the Letter to the Romans. He reasoned Abraham was promised to have descendants because of his faith in God, not by the circumcision. Similarly, when people believe in Christ, they become God’s children and Abraham’s descendants. As God’s children, they are also heirs of God’s promise in Christ, so they don’t need to be circumcised.
3/ Gospel: “You are the Christ of God.”
3.1/ Christ’s true identity: It was about the time that Jesus must go up to Jerusalem to begin his Passion and to leave his disciples, he wants to know if the disciples recognized who he is after a long period of living with and training them. After his prayer, he asks his disciples:
(1) “What people say I am?” This question is only a preparation for the second question. They replied: “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” All these titles aren’t enough to describe Jesus’ true identity; they only describe partly Jesus’ characters through human observation. Jesus has courage to protect the truth as John the Baptist, ability to do many miracles as Elijah, and words of wisdom as a prophet. Jesus continued to ask them:
(2) “What do you say I am? This is the question which isn’t easy to answer because the answer must describe not only Jesus’ true identity but also the apostles’ belief in him. Peter forcefully declared, “The Christ of God.” In the Gospel according to Matthews, Jesus said to Peter, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt 16:17). This saying shows that to know Jesus’ identity exceeds human wisdom; in order to understand, it needs to be revealed for people, through God’s Spirit.
3.2/ The Suffering Messiah: Although Peter correctly declared Jesus’ true identity, he doesn’t truly understand God’s plan of salvation. When Jesus revealed what he must go through, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised;” Peter “took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” But Jesus turned, and said unto Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou know not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Mt 16:22-23).
Then, Jesus said to all people, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.” To be Christ’s disciples, people must give up all their wills which aren’t agree to God’s will, and do God’s will. In addition, people must also accept the way of suffering, that is, to imitate Christ to carry their daily cross to work for their own salvation and the salvation of others.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
We need to ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten our mind to recognize Christ and his teaching. We need to ask him to encourage us to wish good things from God and to hate our sins. Lastly, we also need to ask him to give us strength to do the good we wish.