[Excerpted from the January/February 2018 issue of Emmanuel. Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015.]
No sooner did the disciples acknowledge Jesus to be the Messiah than Jesus confused them completely by telling them that he must suffer and die. A suffering Messiah was far from the glorious king they expected. This is followed by today’s passage, which is generally interpreted as serving to ease the doubts and concerns of the apostles. It was probably equally important for Jesus, contemplating his own suffering and death.
Luke notes that it was about his “exodus.” Mark, however, tells us nothing about what transpired between Moses and Elijah and Jesus. In contrast to the general tenor of Mark’s Gospel, where we are faced with an intensely human Jesus, this one passage gives us a picture of a Jesus who is totally passive. He says nothing and expresses no emotion. Even God’s voice from heaven is addressed to the three disciples. At Jesus’ baptism, the voice was directed to Jesus. Mark’s Christology insists for those who hear the Gospel today that Jesus’ sufferings were part of the plan of redemption, giving him a unique position in salvation history, far superior to Elijah and Moses. He is the one to be listened to and obeyed.