First Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9a
Psalm 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Second Reading: James 2:14-18
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
Years ago the moderator of our Day of Recollection spoke to us on the image of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Mark. The Gospel Reading for this Sunday was the central passage of his message. He invited us to identify with an image of Jesus by feeding our imagination with different images of Jesus from which we were expected to choose from. I was eagerly waiting to hear the image of a vulnerable Jesus in the face of death in the list. Throughout the Day of Recollection my imagination was filled with an image of Jesus speaking openly to the disciples about his vulnerability in the hands of the authorities in Jerusalem.
The Evangelist recounts three different times that Jesus openly tells the disciples about an impending experience of inhuman treatment in the hands of the authorities in Jerusalem (Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34). I am convinced that the inhuman treatment awaiting Jesus in Jerusalem perturbs Jesus hence the number of times Jesus speaks openly to the disciples about it. Speaking to them the third time, Jesus elaborates, providing details: he will be mocked/verbally abused, will be spat at and then scourged. The authorities treated Jesus exactly as Jesus predicted (Mark 15:15-20a). By speaking openly to the disciples about the dehumanizing experience that awaits him in Jerusalem, Jesus invites them to take a firm and noble position against human experience of inhumane treatment from others. The disciples of Jesus are invited into Jesus’ experience of vulnerability at the hands of the authorities so that they can take a firm stand with the vulnerable daughters and sons of God anywhere in the world against the perpetrators of violence of any magnitude.
The First Reading from Prophet Isaiah tells us exactly where God stands. God stands and helps anyone going through an inhuman experience in the hands of others as the “Servant of the Lord” attests in Isaiah 50:9a. God stands with the vulnerable members of the human family, particularly those who have been victims of institutional violence and neglect. God stands with the migrant at the southern border of the United States fleeing political unrest and drug cartels. God stands with the ethnic Rohingya of Myanmar facing institutional brutality and displacement. God stands with the African migrant in a fishing boat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life that has been eroded back home by ineffective institutions. God surely stands with the survivors of clergy sex abuse whose experiences of abuse are documented in the heart-wrenching Pennsylvania grand-jury report. Just as institution failed and dehumanized Jesus, likewise institution has failed to protect the minor from abuse in our Church. Institutions continue to fail the migrant from central America, African, and the ethnic people of Rohingya searching for refuge in Bangladesh.
At the end of the Day of Recollection, I was deeply convinced that by speaking openly about the treatment that awaits him in Jerusalem, Jesus invites me to identify with his vulnerability, to be in solidarity with him and to take a firm stand and answer the call to action against systemic violence, abuse and institutional neglect. My conviction comes from the belief that Jesus’ question “who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29) has meaning in the context of Jesus’ awareness of what awaits him in Jerusalem at the hands of the authorities. As followers of Jesus, therefore, let us become ministers in the vanguard of human dignity and protection for the vulnerable daughters and sons God in our society and in our world.
Ferdinand Okorie, CMF
Instructor of New Testament Studies
Director of Bible Study and Travel Programs