16Sep 16 September. 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Is 50:5-9. The redemptive suffering servant was not rebellious. did not turn away in the face of sacrifice.

Jm 2:14-18. Faith without good works is dead. James ruggedly insists on the moral side of Christian living.

Mk 8:27-35. Though Peter believes in Jesus as Messiah, he is totally against Jesus’ acceptance of sacrifice.Homily Ideas:

Is 50:5-9. The redemptive suffering servant was not rebellious. did not turn away in the face of sacrifice.

Jm 2:14-18. Faith without good works is dead. James ruggedly insists on the moral side of Christian living.

Mk 8:27-35. Though Peter believes in Jesus as Messiah, he is totally against Jesus’ acceptance of sacrifice.Homily Ideas:

Not God’s Way

Today’s gospel story represents a watershed, or turning point, in the public life of Jesus. He had brought his nearest disciples to Caesarea Philippi, a place remote from everything that was Jewish, to share with them the deeper meaning of his person and mission; but he wanted first to discover what understanding each of them had of him so far. Having done that, he began to tell them that he, the person they looked to as the promised Messiah, was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected, and to be put to death. “Teach” is the important word here. Jesus did not simply tell them all this, he had to teach them, to re-educate them in the meaning of his messiah-ship, because in their traditional understanding of what the Messiah should be there was no room for the cross, and little room either for suffering.

The idea that his destiny was to be one of suffering and death was to the disciples scandalous and incredible, and Peter voiced their revulsion at the idea, taking Jesus aside to talk him out of it. But Jesus, who normally used harsh language only to condemn hypocrisy,  gave Peter a most stern rebuke. “Get behind me, Satan. The way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” And he went on to emphasise that every true disciple must take up his cross also and follow him.

Again and again, throughout the rest of Mark’s gospel we find the disciples trying to come to terms with this saying of Jesus, being afraid to ask him to clarify it further, and eventually showing that they had failed to grasp its meaning, when they abandoned him on his arrest in Gethsemane. All this raises the question, “Why does God, who is loving, compassionate, just and forgiving, allow suffering to enter into the lives of even good and holy people?” We, all of us, at some time or other, find ourselves confronted with this dilemma, and it is one of the most difficult to answer to the satisfaction of everyone. We might approach the problem in a concrete way, by examining how the saints reacted to the cross in their lives, since saints give a witness to Christian virtue, a witness approved of by the Church in their canonisation. John of the Cross, for example, in the final years of his short life, asked God for three favours: not to die as a superior of any Carmelite friary; to die in a place where he was unknown; and to die after having suffered much. All these requests were granted in their entirety.

In the last years of his life – he died at the age of 49 – John of the Cross was stripped of all office by his superiors, and some even attempted to have him expelled from the Order which he himself had helped found. He was sent to a house where nobody knew him, where the superior disliked him, installed him in the worst cell in the friary and complained bitterly of the expense to the community caused by his ill health. Finally, the suffering of the saint worsened as his legs and back became ulcerated. Realising that death was near, John, instead of seeking medical care, called for the prior, and begged his pardon for all the trouble and expense he had caused him. The prior in turn was moved to ask forgiveness and left the cell in tears, a changed man, so much so that he was later to die in the odour of sanctity. That same night, without agony or struggle, John yielded up his spirit to his Creator.

Indeed we could go so far as to say that the suffering of all who have faith in Christ can become the suffering of Christ himself; that in them the passion of Christ, even now, is being continued, and that, by the merits thereby gained, souls are being won for God. And we have the words of Sacred Scripture to confirm it. “It makes me happy to suffer for you, as I am suffering now,” St Paul wrote to the Colossians, “and in my own body to do what I can to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body, the Church” (1:24). Would that we also may be ready to embrace the cross in our lives, and so play our part in building up the body which is Christ.

No cross, no crown

Today, Jesus tells us “no cross, no crown.” There can be no Easter without a Good Friday . Everything that happened to Jesus had been foretold by the prophets long before. He came for a purpose, and, as his life unfolded, it became clearer to him what that purpose was. It may seem strange to put it that way, but, for my own spiritual growth, I like to think that Jesus discovered more and more about his mission as time went on. Don’t forget, he did take on our humanity, and I would be slightly uncomfortable with someone who knew exactly every detail of life well in advance! I’m not sure I could relate to that as being realistic, or being anything near what I myself experience.

Many of our sins of omission in life are the result of our fear to face up to something, unsure what it will cost us. We want to get to Easter, and bypass Good Friday, but this cannot be done. No cross no crown. It is the short-term pain for the long-term gain. There is a cost in Pentecost, and living my Christian vocation involves facing up to the fact that I have to die to myself many times in the service of others. This prospect can cause me to hold back, to delay, to try to avoid. I put off facing up to something I should do, in the hope that it may go away by itself. This includes patterns of behaviour, addictions, compulsions, and injustice to others. I know rightly what I should do, but it seems to be too difficult, so I keep postponing doing anything about it, and then, perhaps, life is over, and I never got around to it. This is something on which to reflect today.

There were three young trees growing together in the forest. They were young, healthy, and ambitious. They compared their dreams. One wanted to be part of the structure of a castle or a palace, so it would be a spectator in the lives of the high and mighty of society. The second wanted to end up as the mast in one of the tall ships, sailing around the world with a great- sense of adventure. The third hoped to end up as part of some public monument, where the public would stop, admire, and take photographs.

Years passed by, and all three were cut down. The first was chopped up, and parts of it were put together to form a manger for a stable in Bethlehem. The second was cut down, and the trunk was scooped out to form a boat, which was launched on the Sea of Galilee. The third was cut into sections, two of which were put together, to form a cross on Calvary. Each had a unique and special part to play in the one great story of redemption.

First Reading: Book of Isaiah 50:5-9

The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Second Reading: Epistle of St. James 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly.

And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.