First Reading Commentary
This prophecy foretells what is to become of the Messiah. “They shall look on Him Whom they have pierced.” In John’s Gospel, after Christ’s crucifixion, these very words are recalled (cf. John 19:37). The Book of Revelation also implicitly makes reference to what is stated in this prophecy: “Behold, He is coming amid the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him” (Revelation 1:7).
By discovering the greatness of God’s love, our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and being separated from Him. The human heart is converted by looking upon Him Whom our sins have pierced (cf. CCC 1432).
Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo is where King Josiah was shot by an archer and later died in Jerusalem and all of Judah and Jerusalem mourned him. You can read more about this in 2 Chronicles 35:20-26.
There is a sense that the city of Jerusalem will be purified of moral transgression at the fountain which purifies from sin and uncleanness. This was fulfilled in the New Testament whereby Christ was made an open fountain by His Incarnation. Also, at the baptismal font we were purified from sin and became children of God.
This Reading is a marvelous proclamation on the unity and spiritual equality of human beings. The unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions (CCC 791). Through faith we are all children of God in Jesus Christ. It is through the waters of baptism that we have clothed ourselves with Christ.
Have you ever heard the question: Do the clothes make the person? In other words, can you know something about someone based on how they are dressed? Being clothed with Christ should say something to us about how we are to live our lives. We are all called to chastity as we are clothed with the Model for all chastity. All of Christ’s faithful are called to lead a chaste life in keeping with their particular states of life (cf. CCC 2348).
In baptism we enter into communion with Christ’s death by being buried with Him, and then rising with Him. As Christians we are the seed of Abraham and true heirs to the Promise.
If we are striving to follow the example of Christ we must take notice of the first verse: “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. After this Jesus passes on some more of what could be perceived as disturbing news: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” It would be correct to understand this literally but since most of us are not likely to have our lives threatened because of our love for Christ, another meaning is more appropriately applied: Taking up our cross daily means to trust that our Lord is the conqueror of the world and with faith we can joyfully confront our obstacles head-on. Losing our lives for Christ’s sake is to die to oneself; to not be consumed with the ways of the world but instead keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and rising to a new life in Him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this teaching to help us in our ongoing conversion process: “Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance” (CCC 1435).