Sunday September 12

Gospel of Mark 8:27-35

You are the Christ … the Son of Man was destined to suffer much.

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked, ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

On first reading this challenging Gospel, I found myself feeling for Peter as Jesus challenged him, one of his closest followers so sternly, saying, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’

I then found myself seemingly distracted and watched ‘Incarceration Nation steaming now on SBS Demand’, this powerful program connects the relentless government intervention since colonisation to the trauma and disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians – the two key drivers of incarceration’.

I was horrified to see how the identity of indigenous children and adults is being systematically dismantled and often completely ignored or even trashed. Becoming numbers and statistics instead of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunties and so much more.

Taking away someone’s identity is cruel and violent. There are countless seemingly reasonable explanations presented over the years for the incarceration of individual indigenous peoples in Australia but massive research (since a Royal Commission 30 years ago) shows they are all inadequate and based on the large lies promulgated since colonisation.

I return to this Gospel transformed by watching this program. No wonder Jesus reaction is so powerful to Peter who is subtly trying to take away Jesus identity. Jesus needed to be supported in his own identity in order to flourish and be the embodiment of eternal love in the world.

I pray that we might be further opened to the wonder of others’ identity.

I pray that we reverence others, beginning by listening to each others true identity, particularly our First Nations peoples who are being persecuted and systemically silenced and whose identity is constantly being dismantled by injustice in our society.