The Second Prediction of the Passion (Luke 9:43b-45)

Recall that since we read the pericope on The Return of the Twelve and the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Luke 9:10-17), we’ve had our eye on the would-be apostles.  It was in that reading that we first noticed that they are forming in discipleship, but still might have more than a little ways to go.  Additionally, in our previous reading, The Healing of a Boy with a Demon (Luke 9:37-43a) we saw that the disciples were unable to cast out a demon and Jesus rebuked them as “faithless and perverse” (Lk 9:41).  Today’s reflection should help to shed some light on why the Twelve seem to struggle as they are being formed in discipleship.

The Second Prediction of the Passion

[43b] While they were all amazed at his every deed, he said to his disciples,

44 “Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”

45 But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

It’s a tough position to be in, isn’t it?  Jesus tells them that the Messiah, God’s anointed, is going to be “handed over to men”.  In fact He says “Pay attention to what I’m telling you” and yet the meaning of what He had to say was hidden from them.  If it were anyone other than God doing this, I would say it was a cruel joke.  But God is always, always good.  So what He’s doing has to be for their good.  But how can that be?  To gain an insight, we’re going to have to recall the consequences of Man’s fall from grace and remind ourselves of the Gifts of the Spirit.

As a result of the fall from grace we live with a wounded human nature and ignorance is an affliction that is included in our wounds (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church 402-406).  Because of this ignorance, man has difficulty in knowing many necessary truths and can easily fall into error.  Some would say, our intellect is dimmed by the fall.

But, by the grace of God, we can receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit which make up for what is lacking.  Recall that the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirt are Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Counsel, Piety, Fortitude, and Fear of the Lord.  The disciples fail to comprehend what Jesus is saying because they lack the gifts of Wisdom and Understanding.  The gift of Wisdom allows us to judge rightly concerning divine things.  The gift of Understanding allows us to comprehend the depths of revealed truths. (Jesus, the divine, is revealing a truth about the Messiah.) [For a wonderful exposition on the gifts of Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding I heartily recommend Monsignor Charles Pope’s post on the Archdiocese of Washington blog found here.]

Moreover, not only did the disciples fail to understand what Jesus was saying, but they were also afraid to ask.  The gift of Fortitude would have provided the courage necessary to say “Master, I don’t get it.”

In effect, when scripture tells us that the “meaning was hidden from them” it’s not that God is hiding the meaning.  It is in fact due to the consequence of sin and the wounding of man’s nature that Jesus’ words make no sense.  But now we have to ask: “if Jesus knew they wouldn’t understand, then why did He say ‘pay attention’ and why did He tell them at all?”  After all, Jesus had to know that they weren’t going to understand; in fact, he had to know that they couldn’t understand.

But now we go back to our initial observation: if this was being done by anyone other than God it’s just a cruel joke; but since it comes from God we know it is for their good.  Simply put, they are being formed and formation takes time.  Formation is a lived experience.  Bewilderment and wrestling with sacred mysteries are part of the formation process for Christians.  As we watch the disciples in the coming chapters we will see them deal with the struggles of formation.

However, at Pentecost (Acts of the Apostles chapter 2) we will see the Holy Spirit come upon the Twelve.  We will immediately see their Fortitude, and Knowledge, and Understanding, and Wisdom, and all the gifts.  But something we need to understand is that grace builds upon nature.  If the apostles hadn’t undergone the formation that we saw in this reading, and the formation that Christ had given them throughout His mission, then we wouldn’t be able to see the same immediate effects of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives.  The bewilderment and confusion they felt this day is a gift that we see come to fruition at Pentecost.

Our prayerful response can be to thank God for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received in our Baptism and Confirmation.  We can also pray for the grace to develop the habits that accompany these gifts.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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