First Reading
Isaiah 50:5-9a

The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let that man confront me. See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?

Second Reading
James 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, ” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

We should begin by listening to the Gospel for today. It is really important for us to hear Jesus speaking to us. Who do you say that I am? This is a question that should come to us every day of our lives. Many of us are convinced that Jesus is God, that He is Son of God, that He is Redeemer and Savior. But our intellectual convictions must be translated into our daily lives.

This should bring out attention to the second reading, from the Letter of James. This letter wants to push us to act out our faith in our lives, to live completely the faith that we may have only in our hearts and in our minds. The author of this letter is convinced that our actions really are important—more important than our words. The author of the letter of James is concerned about social actions, about not proclaiming the Gospel to someone who has nothing without offering them something.

But it is the same at the level of sharing ideas with others. So often we can speak about God and about our faith without having any sense of a personal relationship with Jesus in our daily lives. The second reading today should challenge us to have such a personal relationship with God and with Jesus Christ. It is not so very difficult: we only have to ask Jesus for that relationship and then begin to act with Him in mind.

There are times when we will feel like the author of the first reading, however: ”I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” When we begin to take the time to think about Jesus and about God and to use time to ask them to be present in our lives and in our decisions, we can easily be thought to be overly pious or perhaps just crazy.

There are so many opportunities each day to ask God to be present, to ask Jesus to be part of our decisions and our thoughts.

Perhaps we will understand more what it means to give up our lives once we begin to work strongly at putting Jesus first in our decisions. This putting Jesus first can be most helpful, especially when we are feeling strong emotions about situations.

Today we can ask for the gift of faith, we can ask that our faith will be active in the way we life and finally we can ask for a deep and abiding sense of God’s personal presence in our lives.