”Who do people say that I am?…But who do you say that I am?” Jesus, in Mark 8:27-38.
“You’re even better than your dad thought!” Ian Raducanu to his daughter, Emma.
It’s good to be able to resume the weekly reflections after being unwell and I am so thankful for all the kind messages and prayers on the website that brought such encouragement at so difficult a time. My profound thanks to all who wrote and have given me a greater understanding of just what a difference prayer and expressions of goodwill can bring.
That was also visible in contrasting ways in New York this weekend with the service for the twentieth anniversary of the atrocity at the World Trade Centre and the success of Emma Raducanu in winning the US Open at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queen’s. International messages of support and remembrance clearly showed that all those who had died in so terrible a way in the 9.11 disaster and since in Afghanistan are not forgotten, just as the many comments about the two young tennis finalists underlined that their dedication and hard work brought hope for the future as well as their current achievement in getting to the final as teenagers. Emma said that she would frame the encouraging message sent to her from the Queen as it meant so much to her and she has earned for herself not only a great deal of money but also the unofficial tennis title of Queen of Queens.
That has a Biblical resonance too, where Jesus is called King of kings by Timothy in his first Epistle (6:15). In the Gospel reading today, Jesus has taken his followers to Caesarea Philippi, away from Jerusalem and into Roman and Gentile territory. Much of Mark’s gospel until now has been concerned with miracles and healings – there has been much speculation about Jesus, who has brought sight to a blind man just before he asks the disciples who people say he is. They suggest John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets but when Jesus asks them who they think he is, Peter then calls him the Messiah. Like the blind man, his eyes have been opened – but not fully, as Jesus then rebukes Peter when he argues about the suffering that must later happen. Jesus even calls him Satan for not accepting God’s will. How hard and confusing this must have been, not only for Peter and the disciples but for Jesus, too, as he works out who he is and what God is asking of him.
Times like that can be hard for all of us, as we grapple with who we are, what is being asked of us and what we can do to increase hope and goodwill in the world as it is today. But the willingness of Jesus to persevere in adversity through suffering to a new way of being at his resurrection shows us what humanity can be capable of when inspired by love, violence, rebuke or hope. No matter how old we are perhaps, like Emma Raducanu who struggled at Wimbledon and had to withdraw, we are capable of being or becoming even better than those encouraging us thought possible at the time – or we ourselves think possible now?
With my prayers and thankfulness for the encouragement sent to me; pob bendith,