Mark 8: 27-38
Text and Tune: Cesáreo Gabaráin (1936-1991)
(Text cannot be copied for reasons of copyright. See links below)
The text for today is from Mark 8:27-38, the great encounter, known as the confession of Peter, in which Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is. When Peter announces that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus commends him for his confession. Jesus then tells the disciples that he will have to suffer and die on the cross. It horrifies Peter who rebukes the Lord. The Messiah should not suffer so. Jesus has a rebuke that echoes down history into our day. In fact, he even calls Peter Satan. Get thee behind me! he commands.
Until I worked on this passage a bit more, I didn’t quite get what Jesus was saying when he said that, other than wanting Peter out of his sight. But that is not quite what scholars say he is doing. He is telling Peter—even Satan—to get behind him in order to follow him. Jesus is the leader. Any attempt on the part of Peter or others to get Jesus to deny his calling on earth needs to be called out. Jesus does so memorably in this passage. We cannot be saved if we do not follow him. Any thought we can save ourselves or especially the Messiah is straight from the devil whose only powers are to sow disorder and chaos in our midst.
"Jesus then called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?'” Mark 8: 34-36
Here we have the truth for all time, both on earth and in heaven. There is only life in following behind our Lord, in his pathway, and in his company, at all times honoring him as Lord of our life. I have kept thinking of it during the pandemic when it seems we are trying to save our lives and thus losing them. Jesus calls us to throw ourselves into our daily lives here and live for others confident that he is in charge of our life and death. In fact, knowing that he has conquered death should give us confidence to live with vim and vigor. Life is on the other side as well as it is here. If we really believed that, how different our behavior might have been over the past year and a half!
C. S. Lewis on facing nuclear annihilation advised us to live life to the fullest even in the face of unimaginable horrors because we know who holds the future. Let evil find us growing stronger in our faith, in our deeds of courage, rejoicing that he has come to us, as our hymn sung at the requiem mass for the 9/11 victims, says, down by the lakeshore, asking us to follow behind him, to leave our small boat and go out into the wild fresh seas of life glad because he has promised us life, now and forever. Of whom then shall we be afraid!
This hymn was sung at the requiem masss for the victims of 9/11 in St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. When it began, the commentator who was speaking sotto voce behind the service explaining what was going on, drew a blank. He had never heard it before and needed more information. But already at that time, it had become a favorite of Catholics around the world. Pope John Paul II loved it and had it sung at many of the World youth services he led during his papacy. However, since then, it has been revealed that the author and composer was guilty of serious charges of pedophilia and he has since suffered disgrace. A Spanish priest active in the liturgical revival, he wrote both text and tune. That raises the question can a terrible sinner write a hymn that is faithful? All who write hymns are terrible sinners. This may spoil the hymn for you, and I in no way excuse any of his reported abuse. The hymn, with its lilting tune and text, however, does teach us who Jesus is and his calling for us to follow him, even if the writer did not glorify his Lord by his deeds, in fact, denied him. What to do? I don’t know, but I do know God can use sinners for his own dread purposes, however twisted they are.
Hearts for God
First Plymouth First Congregation Church Lincoln, NE
University of Notre Dame Folk Choir