Last week's readings were a good introduction
to this Sunday's. What we surfaced about the Christian's ability to hear
will now be amplified by the Christian's obligation to hear.
Isaiah's third song of the Suffering Servant --
the first reading (Isaiah 50:5-9a) -- presents a good definition of a
disciple of God: "Morning after morning, Yahweh opens my ear that I may
True biblical followers of God aren't people
who adhere to a strict regimen of prayer and penance, or get theology or
Scripture degrees. Faithful disciples hit the floor every morning listening,
attentive to what God is saying today that they didn't hear Him say
Dying with Jesus
In his Gospel (Mark 8:27-35), Mark agrees with
the hearing definition of discipleship, especially when he treats a huge
problem in his Roman community: Some people had developed ways of following
Jesus that left out imitating His death.
Of course, no one believed they died with Jesus
by actually having themselves nailed to a cross. Dying can take different
forms. But, before anything else, a Christian is expected to die in the same
way the historical Jesus died long before His physical death. We're called
to imitate the kind of dying which led to His physical death.
Mark creates three significant narratives to
remind his readers about the forms their deaths are to take. Found in three
successive chapters (8-10), each was constructed using the same pattern.
Jesus begins by predicting His passion, death and resurrection; then one or
more of His disciples says or does something to show they're not willing to
die; and the passage ends with Jesus clarifying what it means to die.
Sunday's Gospel is the first in Mark's series.
Peter is given the honor of making a Christian fool of himself. After Jesus'
initial prediction, "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke
Him." Jesus doesn't appreciate Peter's concern. "At this, He
turned around and rebuked Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan. You are
thinking not as God does, but as humans do.'"
Mark closes the passage by having Jesus remind
His followers of the first way of dying with Him: "Those who wish to
come after me must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me."
Scripture scholars believe it wouldn't have
made sense until after His own crucifixion for the historical Jesus to use
the word "cross" in this context. He probably told His followers
to carry their "tau."
Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet
-- a "T." Pious Jews used it to show they were totally open to
Yahweh's will. In our culture, we say someone did something "from A to
Z;" they said from "Aleph to Tau," or simply, "to the
"Carrying your tau" means to listen
for and respond to God's speaking in your life. It's easy to understand,
after Jesus' death and resurrection, how Christians converted the tau into a
Mark believed the first step in dying with
Jesus revolved around a willingness to imitate His determination to accept
God's will as His own. Only by losing one's life on that level would one
eventually save one's life. According to James, in the second reading (James
2:14-18), it's the sort of "work" that gives life to faith.
No wonder early Christian communities turned to
Isaiah's four songs of the Suffering Servant when they attempted to
understand Jesus and His effect on their lives. Especially in the third,
they discovered what Jesus discovered: having an open, listening
relationship with God always trumps having a relationship with a set of laws
or a religious institution.