Today's gospel comes from Luke 9:43-45:
"While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men."
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."
The reading starts with the disciples' very understandable amazement at the physical wonders Jesus has performed, like we saw yesterday in Jesus's first encounter with Nathaniel. Nathaniel is impressed that Jesus knows his name before he introduces himself, and Jesus asks him to understand he will see much greater wonders than that. Can you imagine what it would have been like to spend time with Jesus, and watch how in town to town he heals people physically, freeing them from their sins and changing their lives? It would have been, in the truest sense of the word, awesome. The disciples are in absolute wonderment at what Jesus can do, and are trying to make sense of it.
Yet there is one thing that Jesus keeps "hidden" from them, which is the truth about the end of his life. Why would he need (or the Holy Spirit need) to keep this teaching hidden from them? I believe the answer is fear. The disciples could be afraid of losing their friend, afraid of the consequences for themselves as his followers, and even afraid to personally witness what will happen to him. If they understood what was coming, they may have struck out in preemptive violent against Jesus's enemies. Perhaps they simply weren't ready for it; not ready to be given comprehension and understanding of the mystery of Jesus's death.
In reading this, I feel it highlights a few important things, beginning with the necessity of faith. The disciples did not abandon Jesus after this moment, but stuck around despite their fearfulness for what he could mean. In faith, they persevered along beside him. Jesus in his wisdom knew they were not ready for this bit of truth, and I reflect how in my own life there could be things Jesus withholds from me because I am not ready. This is symbolic of our overall limited knowledge. Recently someone asked me whether I'd like to know what will happen in my life in the future, say 10 years down the road, and my answer was an emphatic no. We are not meant to know everything, and if we did, we may reject it. Yet in ten years I will be exactly where God wills me, whether it makes sense to me now or not. Truly, when I look at my life now vs. even just 5 years ago, it is unrecognizable. If someone had shown me my future I may not have been ready for it.
Then that closing line of the reading, that the disciples were afraid to ask him about this teaching. Is this a choice to be copied? Maybe - in that sometimes we should simply accept what Jesus shares even if it is difficult to comprehend. But, not out of fear, out of faith.
This is an opportunity to talk to Jesus about his teachings which scare me or are difficult to understand, and to pray to accept them with courage. How do I feel about what the church teaches, and are there any that are challenging or frightening? Do we fear falling short of God's grace if we cannot follow his teachings? In the end, the greatest thing is God's mercy, and he is always willing to listen to us if we bring our fears to him in prayer.