19 February 2009 Thursday of the 6th Week in Ordinary Time
Genesis 9, 1-13; Psalm 102; Mark 8, 27-30
In the first reading, God establishes a covenant with His people, namely Noah and his children. A covenant, in ancient times, was a way of regulating the relationships between individuals and groups. God initiates the covenant: the rainbow is its sign and reminder. It is a reminder to God of the pledge to preserve the world; and at the same time, a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness and mercy. Despite our violent nature, God in His mercy, assures to keep the order of creation. He reiterates His blessing given at creation: “Be fertile and multiply”.
In the Gospel, Peter is able to identify and articulate Jesus as the Son of God. The context of his identification is amazing. Many people thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets. It would be easy for Jesus’ disciples to be swayed by what people say. There were also other ‘distractions’. The event occurred in Caesarea Philippi which was once a center of Baal worship. It was then called, Balinas; now, it called, Banias. There was also a mountain with a cave that was believed by the Greeks to be the birthplace of Pan, the god of nature. In a place where there were various beliefs about different gods, Peter was able to identify God in a wandering carpenter as Jesus.
Jesus, on the other hand, was looking at the future --- His impending suffering and death. The future suffering was guaranteed with the rising opposition against him. He was in the crossroad of His life. And thus, in facing His future, He must know who He was to His followers. In our life, we often ask our loved ones who we are to them; so that when we face our uncertain future, or encounter the necessary suffering the future demands, we can go through it with meaning and in peace. It was a relief for Jesus to know that at least Peter knew who He really was.
I would like to interpret the word “multiply” not just to mean a continuation of procreation in the sense of the ancient world, but also to connote growth and development. “Multiply” may mean that there is an addition to a thing or a creature, twice, thrice, fourfold. But we have seen that those who multiply their possessions tend to be selfish and greedy. To me, “multiply” may also mean an added value, an improvement towards our becoming “created in the image of God”. Thus, it can mean becoming better in virtue; or an advancement in our gifts and talents by diligent practice; or maturation in our moral lives.
And how do we “multiply” in this sense? We take the answer from the Gospel. First, focus: we mature when we are able to see the real God, despite the distractions of other ‘gods’ in our lives --- popularity, power, possession. We are able to focus on what is valuable and important despite the many distractions that characterize modern living. We are able to deepen our relationship with God, establishing a healthier image of God, and entering into mature covenants or commitments.
Second, foundations: we mature when we are able to face our crosses with a faith that is solid and grounded. We know who we are and what we stand for. We know whom we love and who love us. Our support systems help us face our challenges. When we develop our talents: we need to begin learning the basic skills first. Without it, we would not reach excellence --- or we would not risk at all.