Friday, September 26, 2014

On the Battlefield of Prayer

If we are striving to follow the example of Christ we must take notice of the first verse in today's Gospel: “Jesus was praying in solitude.”  In the liturgy we come together as the Body of Christ.  But outside of liturgy Jesus teaches us that we need that time in solitude to continually build and strengthen our personal relationship with our Lord.  Solitude, however, can be a misleading word.  We are never alone; God is always with us.  

“Who do the crowds say that I am?”  The disciples reply with specific names of prophets and other ancient prophets but no one perceives Jesus to be the Messiah.  Peter confessing that Jesus is “the Christ of God” is significant.  As the soon to be appointed head of the Church, it was important that he answered correctly because after Christ’s Ascension the spreading of this remarkable news would rest on his shoulders and those of the other apostles.  

For now, Jesus directed them not to tell this to anyone.  This has often been referred to as the “Messianic Secret”.  The reason for Christ’s momentary secrecy is that He wanted others to form their opinions of Him based on the character of His works and not by any preconceived notions. 

Jesus was also probably trying to guard Himself from the crowd’s misunderstanding of what the Messiah was to be.  Many felt that the Messiah would come as a mighty warrior and destroy their enemies and He would then become their temporal King.  Even some of the apostles thought this to be true.  

In this Gospel we read that the disciples are the first to learn the shocking news of what is to happen to the Messiah: “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  The disciples must have been scratching their heads at this bewildering news flash.  The Messiah is going to die and rise again?  This was surely a difficult concept to comprehend and accept. And really, because of the fall, that seed of doubt has been planted in all of us. Faith and prayer is a battle.