24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B – 2009 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?
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.”
We must give up our lives for the sake of Jesus Christ and for His Gospel. This is so clear in today’s Gospel passage from Saint Mark. Yet none of us wants to give up his or her life. Only when we begin to know Jesus and to believe in Him totally and when we begin to understand His Good News, His Gospel, will we begin to desire to give our life completely for Him and the Gospel. So the challenge is always to know Jesus and to allow Him to become the Lord of our life.
We want to become like Peter and be able to say with complete faith: you are the Christ! The Good News of Jesus, the Gospel of Jesus is that God loves us and we must love one another. This message is present on every page of the New Testament and is understood more profoundly when we read the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures, in the light of the New Testament.
Perhaps the understanding that the Savior will suffer and die for us is the most profound part of the Gospel. It is an enormous scandal, as is all suffering. It always puts before us the mystery of why God allows suffering in our world. We rebel against a God who would control us and we rebel against a God who leaves us free.
When we read the Letter of Saint James, we begin to understand that God is asking of us a faith that is willing to act for others, a faith which invites us to sacrifice our own life for the lives of others, a faith that is strong in belief but equally strong in doing good to others.
Just as Jesus was willing to give up His life so that others could live, we also must have that kind of faith. We must be willing to walk in our lives and Jesus walked in His life: love of the Father expressed in love of others. Just like Jesus, we will have others tell us that we are fanatics and that we don’t have to do this and that surely God would not ask this of us.
May the Holy Spirit guide each of us today so that we may clearly see the path of Jesus in our lives and have the courage and strength to walk in His ways.