September 24, 2011 - Saturday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

I wonder when Jesus learned that he would die on the Cross, or if he always knew it. I mean to say, did he know it as a five-year-old boy or did he learn it at some point later in life? He was not taken by surprise: he teaches his disciples about the sufferings to come and he discusses the Cross with Elijah and Moses during the Transfiguration. We know that it was a great burden for him, as is clear from his prayers in the garden on the night before he died, but how long did he carry this burden?

It seems to me that there are two distinct ways to read the Gospel today. We could read it as Jesus trying to share this burden with those closest to him, but they are not strong enough to help bear it, or we could read it as Jesus, knowing that his disciples would not be able to bear the burden that he carried but also wanting to prepare his disciples for his death, tells them about the suffering and death to come, but prevents them from understanding.

It all depends on the phrase “Its meaning was hidden from them”, whether the meaning was hidden by their own obtuseness or Jesus actually prevented them from understanding. In the year leading up to the Cross, Jesus told his disciples many times that he would suffer and die. They did not understand then, but after he died and rose from the dead they remembered these teachings. Remembering them after the fact, with the Cross in the past, they are transformed, from the burden they would have been, to the revelation they are now.

These words are a revelation because they teach us so much about Jesus Christ. Because of these words we know that he was fully aware of the death he would suffer, yet he does not say these words as a merely prescient person would. If you knew right now the death that awaits you, your first instinct would be to consider ways to avoid it, but Jesus does not begin planning ways to avoid his fate. He knows what is coming, and he is committed to doing the will of the Father. Whether he knew about the Cross before he learned his first words or if he did not know until the year before, he always knew that he would do the will of his Father, no matter what.