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Beyond Our Dreams

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by Leslie J. Hoppe, OFM | September 11, 2015

Scripture Reflection for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 13, 2015)

Scripture Readings:
Isaiah 50: 5-9A
Psalm 116: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
James 2: 14-18
Mark 8:27-35

Jesus' native land was occupied by the Romans for more than sixty years when Jesus began his itinerant preaching and healing ministry. His people were convinced that God was about to bring an end to the brutal Roman occupation. They had dreams of freedom and self-determination and they were looking for some indication pointing to the dawning of a new age. Some even expected that the Judahite national state and its Davidic dynasty were to be restored. Jesus' proclamation of the imminent coming of God's Reign surely heightened the sense of expectancy among some people. It is not surprising then that Peter asserted that Jesus was the Christ, i.e., the Messiah who would usher in that new age, leading to a new birth of freedom for the people of Judah. Jesus, however, distanced himself from such expectations. He warned his disciples not to broadcast Peter's assertion.

Despite Jesus' refusal to associate himself with the messianic expectations of his day, Christ (Messiah) is the most frequently occurring title for Jesus in the New Testament. The early Church, reflecting on Jesus' life, came to recognize that Jesus' life and death transformed the messianic expectations of his people. Jesus was indeed the Christ. He did inaugurate the new age of freedom but in a way that was hardly imagined by his contemporaries. Christians believed that Jesus did fulfill the hopes, dreams, and expectations of his people but in a way that transcended those expectations. This fulfillment came by way of the paradox of the cross - a paradox that was to mark the lives of Jesus' followers: "those who wish to save their lives will lose them, but those who lose their lives for my sake and that of the gospel will save them" (v. 35).

The paradox of the cross runs contrary to most people's expectations of religion. They look to religion to provide comfort, support and peace, but the gospel suggests that people will find peace through accepting the cross in their lives, dying to their selfishness and sin. We live under the impression that happiness comes from following our own impulses, our own desires, our own dreams. The tragedy of our human existence is that our attempts at controlling our own destiny can leads us away from God. That is the mystery and power of sin in our lives. None of us chooses sin because it is evil, because it can cause harm to others, or because it leads us away from God. We choose sin because we perceive it as a good leading to happiness and fulfillment. The paradox of the cross is that the denial of our selfish impulses leads to our truest self and truest happiness.

Jesus' reply to Peter's assertion that he was the Christ required Peter to put aside his own expectations about the goal of Jesus' life and ministry. That ministry was not to bring about the restoration of the Judahite national state. It was not about the end of foreign domination and the beginning of political and economic self-determination. Jesus was inaugurating a new age. He did indeed fulfill the dreams of his people. But the fulfillment that Jesus effected far exceeded their wildest hopes.

 

Image: Spirituality by Sathish J. Found on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Author information Leslie J. Hoppe, OFM

Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies
M..A., Aquinas Institute of Theology; Ph.D., Northwestern University

Within the broad range of Old Testament studies, he has focused on Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Literature and on the social and economic conflict between rich and poor in ancient Israelite society. One result of his work in the latter area is There Shall Be No Poor Among You: Poverty in the Bible. He has participated in several archaeological projects in Upper Galilee and is the author of The Churches and Synagogues of Ancient Palestine. He has served as the Director of CTU’s Biblical Study and Travel Progams and has been the academic director of the Fall Program whose residence while in Israel is in Azariah, a village near Jerusalem. This experience has led him to write The Holy City: Jerusalem in the Theology of the Old Testament. He has written several other books and many articles in the area of Old Testament interpretation and biblical archaeology. His latest book is Isaiah in the New Collegeville Bible Commentary series.

He is the general editor of The Catholic Biblical Quarterly and has served on the editorial boards of Old Testament Abstracts and The Bible Today and as general editor of the latter. He is the associate editor of the Anselm Press Study Bible.

He has been a member of the faculty since 1981 except from 2005 to 2011 when he served as the Provincial Minister of the Assumption Province.

In addition to his service at CTU, he has been visiting professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, and the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.

He is member of the Assumption Province, Order of Friars Minor and a Roman Catholic priest.

Email: lesliejh@ctu.edu

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