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?
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
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.”
Today our readings speak to us about trying to do what is right in every situation. These readings also speak about listening attentively to what God may be asking us to do in our lives. When we first hear the readings, we may want to apply them to Jesus’ life and leave them there, but we must apply them to our own lives and hear what God is speaking to us.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, is from that section of his writing that speaks about the Suffering Servant. These writing in the Prophet tell us about a person who is willing to accept suffering so that others will not have to suffer. This person is so intent on accepting suffering only because of an inner conviction that God is the one asking this suffering for the sake of others.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we also see this kind of acceptance of suffering for the sake of others. Redemptive suffering such as this can only come from two intensely profound convictions: first, that God loves me, and then, secondly, that God asks me to love others as well. These two convictions reflect the greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbor. These great commandments only make sense to us when we realize that God loves us. In this way, our love can share in God’s love for others as well as for ourselves.
Probably most of us can see that Jesus really lives this kind of love. The challenge is for us to live this kind of love. It is easy to say: “Well, Jesus was God,” or, “Jesus was a really holy man.” We can think that Jesus is capable of that kind of love and I am not and so I don’t have to do anything more.
The Scriptures, however, keep inviting us to share in the divine life. The Scriptures want us to recognize that being faithful to God is not about an abstract holiness that only a few can live. It is about our daily lives and the ways that we live. Perhaps too often we think that living according to the Scriptures and especially the Gospels will not make us into the kinds of people that we want to be.
If we choose to follow Jesus, we will become very strong people and also very good people. Sometimes good people are seen as weak but they don’t have to be weak! Jesus was clearly seen as a threat to many people in His own time because of His strength. He is strong because He is will to suffer for the truth and to suffer for others. The truth for which He suffered was God’s will. Jesus always is looking to do what His Father asks of Him.
So today, in this Eucharist, we can also make that choice to look for what God wants of us and then choose to do that with all of our inner conviction. It is never easy and we often fail, but if we consistently begin to choose what God wants, we shall be changed entirely. We will become very strong as well as good, and we will learn how to accept our cross and how to suffer for others. May we choose for our God!