On the road to Jerusalem Jesus asks his disciples a general
question, "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples respond with
what people were saying about him. The popular notion was that Jesus
was someone like John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the great
People today might say Jesus was one of the great founders of a
world religion; a good man who cared for the poor and outsider; a
wise teacher like Moses and Gandhi. Others that he was a radical who
wanted to overthrow the oppressive forces over his people. If asked
that question a modern probably would go to Google. There one reads
that Jesus was, "a first century preacher and religious leader. He
is the central figure of Christianity."
True enough, but those responses are like the disciples’ response
to Jesus’ first question, "Who do people say that I am?" Popular
opinion is one thing. That’s not what Jesus was looking for. He
wanted a more personal response, one that would not only come from
the mind, but also from the heart – an answer that would include
total commitment to him and his ways. After all, Jesus was leading
his disciples to Jerusalem where he was anticipating he would be put
to death for who he was and what he was doing. So, he asks the
disciples to follow him all the way to his death – and then to his
resurrection. Will they be willing to stay with him as he gives up
his life? Willing to accept the suffering and sacrifice that will
come to any who choose to follow him?
Peter’s answer, "You are the Christ," that is, the Messiah. It is
the right answer. But their notion of a Messiah was a victorious
ruler. It certainly did not include any notion of suffering. So,
Jesus tells them not to tell anyone until they learn what kind of
Messiah he will reveal himself to be.
We can’t be too hard on the disciples. There are believers today
who still have a notion that following him will bring health and
wealth. This "prosperity gospel," teaches that God wants financial
success and well-being for us. Faith can overpower the curses of
sickness and poverty Having faith – and sending donations to certain
religious organizations and their ministers as signs of that faith –
will yield security and prosperity for the believer. The "prosperity
gospel" first emerged in the 1950's in the United States. Of course
it would, it’s teaching affirmed our fundamental belief about our
country. We are a "Christian country" and therefore blessed by God
with wealth and power. In the light of this teaching what would you
think if you were poor, or afflicted with a serious disease? Would
you take it as a sign you didn’t have enough faith? Or, that you
offended God and so God is punishing you? Again – we can’t be too
hard on the disciples because their notion of Jesus as Messiah might
not be so very different from our belief and practice.
Jesus had more to teach and show his disciples about what kind of
Messiah he was. At this turning point in the gospel he, "warned them
not to tell anyone about him." This call to secrecy appears in
Mark’s gospel. It seems Jesus did not want to become a celebrity
known only for his miraculous powers. It was too early in the
formation of his disciples to have them spread word of his
messiahship. They would have gotten the message all wrong. They
would have missed what Jesus meant when he invited us to "take up
your cross and follow me."
Perhaps the disciples would have been helped in their
understanding of Jesus if they had reflected on our first reading.
It’s one of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah and supports what Jesus
says about himself. Early Christians drew on Isaiah and gave Jesus
the title "servant." They saw that Isaiah’s "suffering servant of
God" was realized in Jesus. So, those who wish to follow Jesus must
be the kind of servant Jesus was, willing to deny self for others.
Our second reading from the Letter of St. James spells out what
taking up the cross and following Jesus means in concrete ways. We
cannot just declare our faith in Jesus. If we don’t put faith into
actions it means nothing and is not enough to save us. "What good is
it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says they have faith, but do
not have works?" Just as God became flesh and was revealed to the
world in Jesus, so God’s proximity and love is revealed in the flesh
through the words and deeds of all believers.
We return to Jesus’ question to his disciples, now put to us:
"Who do you say that I am?" Jesus is not only the model who teaches
us how to live our lives in accord with God’s will. His life, death
and resurrection and his gift of his Spirit, is the very source of
the good works we do in his name. (James has spelled out just some
of these good works for us today. We will hear more from him next
"Who who do you say I am?" Is not a question we have to answer
just once at a certain period of our lives. As we pass through
various stages our response will vary, depending upon life’s
circumstances and our own maturity and faith. Today we are again
asked: Who is Jesus for us now and what is the meaning of Jesus for
our lives? It might be timely for us to take Jesus’ question with us
through this week.
We could take the question to prayer and silent reflection. Where
am I in my life and what’s going on now? How has Jesus been the
center and guide for my thinking and acting? Then, as the week
progresses: what are my responsibilities as his disciple? How am I
being asked each day to take up the cross and follow him? Or, to
summarize in a familiar dictum – as life presents itself to me these
days – "What would Jesus do?"
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
the bishops of the border between Texas and Northern
The cry of Christ in the voice of the migrant
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as immigrants and refugees,
sought a place to live and work, hoping for a
compassionate human response. Today this history repeats
itself; this morning we visited detention centers and
respite centers for mothers and their adolescent and
minor children traveling with them. Centers like these
have been described as places of intolerable and
inhumane conditions. There we heard the gospel call:
"Because I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was
hungry and you gave me food…" (Mt 25:35-36).
We Christians must challenge ourselves to think about Jesus’
nonviolent life. Fr. John Dear writes in his book, They Shall
Inherit the Earth (Orbis, 2018), that "the four Gospels portray
Jesus as a pilgrim of peace walking from Galilee to Jerusalem, where
he eventually confronted the imperial system head-on and gave his
life for humanity and the coming of God’s reign of peace and
nonviolence." Notice that peace and nonviolence are listed
separately. If God’s love is expressed as peace, nonviolence is what
God’s love looks like in action.
Jesus lived nonviolence as a way of life, not just when it was
convenient. Some will say, "Look what he did in the temple." To be
nonviolent does not mean that one is a door mat in the face of
injustice. We need to become spiritually mature human beings--fully
utilizing the compassion that is woven into our being and joyfully
take care of others, accept stewardship of our earth, and challenge
systems that are not leading us to become a just society--all by
The night before he died, Martin Luther King Jr told his audience
in Memphis, "The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence. It’s
nonviolence--or nonexistence." He also said that humanity "must
evolve, for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge,
aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is
love." Pope Francis affirms Dr. King by stating, "I urge all people.
. You.to respond to Dr. King’s prophetic words and know that a
culture of nonviolence is not an unattainable dream, but a path that
has produced decisive results. The consistent practice of
nonviolence has broken barriers, bound wounds, healed nations."
This week is Campaign Nonviolence Week across the nation and in
many places around the world. This grassroots movement will have
over 2000 actions taking place including a silent march in
Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 22 (www.paceebene.org).
We have three events here in Raleigh and YOU ARE INVITED TO ATTEND:
9/17, 7PM: "Speak No Evil: Creating the U.S. Constitution"
Community United Church of Christ, 814 Dixie Trail
9/18, 7PM: "Happiness is Homemade Forum: Affordable Housing
Promotes Nonviolent Living" Highland United Methodist Church, 1901
9/20, 7PM: "Toward Wholeness: Prayer Vigil for Nonviolence"
Sacred Heart Church, 200 Hillsborough St.
Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Isaiah reading:
Lord God is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced.
have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee we’ll succeed. It’s not
about success, but about being faithful. But how can we be faithful
when suffering is the price we sometimes must pay for doing what is
right? What will keep us from yielding and turning in another
direction? Isaiah has a piece of wisdom and assurance for us today,
"The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced."
So we ask ourselves:
- Have I ever suffered or been penalized for doing what was
- What gave me the determination and strength to stay the
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death
penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in
whatever form it is carried out." ---Pope Francis
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Andere Fletcher #0130628 (On death row since 12/9/11)
- Terry Hyatt #0199877 (2/7/00)
- Cerron T. Hooks #0561692 (2/9/00)
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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