16Sep 16 September. 24th Sunday

1st Reading: Isaiah (50:5-9)

The redemptive suffering servant was not rebellious. did not turn away from sacrifice

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.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 116)

R.: I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living

I love the Lord for he has heard
the cry of my appeal;
for he turned his ear to me
in the day when I called him. (R./)

They surrounded me, the snares of death,
with the anguish of the tomb;
they caught me, sorrow and distress.
I called on the Lord’s name.
O Lord my God, deliver me! (R./)

How gracious is the Lord, and just;
our God has compassion.
The Lord protects the simple hearts;
I was helpless so he saved me. (R./)

He has kept my soul from death,
my eyes from tears
and my feet from stumbling.
I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.

2nd Reading: Epistle of St. James 2:14-18)

Faith without good works is dead. James insists on the moral side of Christian life

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)

Peter believes in Jesus as Messiah, but resists the idea of messianic sacrifice

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.”


Who is Christ for me?

Sometimes in art, a figure looks out at us from the painting and we feel ourselves somehow personally addressed. Something similar may be said of this Sunday’s Gospel. It has its place, of course, in the Gospel of Mark and in the context of Jesus’ own evolving self-understanding. Still, we all feel ourselves addressed as well. With all the pressures on faith today, it is vital that we all begin to look once more at the core of the faith. Who is Christ for me and what are the consequences for my life?

Kieran O’Mahony. (For his exegetical comments on today’s readings, click here)

No cross, no crown

Today, Jesus tells us “no cross, no crown.” We cannot get to Easter without going through Good Friday.

Everything that happened to Jesus was part of a divine plan. He came for a purpose, and as life unfolded it became clearer to him what that purpose was. For our own spiritual growth, it is well to recall that Jesus “advanced in wisdom and age and favour with God and others” (Lk 2:52). He understood more about his mission as time went on. He fully took on our humanity, and thus could not know in advance exactly every detail of his future!

Our sins of omission are mainly based on fear of committing to Gospel values, unsure what they will cost us. We may want to reach Easter but bypass Good Friday. However the Gospel entails both. “No cross no crown.” We must bear short-term pain for long-term gain. There is a cost in Pentecost, and living the Christian vocation involves a kind of dying to oneself in the service of others. This prospect can cause us to hold back, to delay, to put off needed action, in the hope that the challenge may go away by itself. This includes behaviour-patterns, addictions, compulsions, and injustice to others. We keep postponing and hesitating. This is something on which to reflect today.

Three young trees were growing together in the forest, each one healthy and ambitious. As they compared their dreams, one wanted to be built into a castle or a palace, and so play a part in the lives of the high and mighty of society. The second wanted to become 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 them nailed together to form a cross on Calvary. Each had a unique and special part to play in the one great story of redemption.


24-852860José Antonio Pagola

This episode holds a central and decisive place in Mark’s account. The disciples have spent some time now with Jesus. The time has come to declare clearly: Who are they following? What is it that they find in Jesus? What do they grasp of his life, his message and his project?

Ever since they’ve joined him, they go about questioning his identity. What surprises them most is the authority with which he speaks, the power with which he heals the sick, and the love with which he offers God’s forgiveness to sinners. Who is this man in whom they feel God so present and so close as a Friend of life and of forgiveness?

Among the people who haven’t been walking with him, there are all kinds of rumors; but Jesus is more interested in his disciples’ position: «But you, who do you say I am?». It’s not enough that among them are various opinions, some more and some less certain. What’s fundamental is that they who have committed themselves to his cause recognize the mystery he enfolds. If they don’t, who will keep his message alive? What will happen to his project of God’s Reign? Where will that group that he’s trying to get going, end up?

But the question is also vital for his disciples. It radically affects them. It’s not possible to follow Jesus in an unconscious and casual manner. They have to know him all the more deeply. Peter, recalling the experiences that they have shared with him up to this point, answers in the name of all of them: «You are the Christ». Peter’s confession is still limited. The disciples don’t yet know about Jesus’ crucifixion at the hands of his enemies. They can’t even suspect that he’ll be raised up by the Father as the Beloved Son. They don’t have any experience that lets them grasp all that is enfolded in Jesus. They just follow him closely, gradually discovering this with growing faith.

For Christians it’s vital to recognize and confess all the more deeply the mystery of Jesus the Christ. If the Church ignores Christ, she goes about ignoring her own self. If she doesn’t know him, she can’t know what’s most essential about her work and mission. But in order to know and confess Jesus the Christ, it’s not enough to fill our mouths with wonderful Christological titles. We need to follow him closely and work with him day by day. This is the main task we must advocate in our groups and Christian communities.

How well do we know him?

It is not easy to get to know someone really well. A couple who have lived together for many years will be well aware of each other’s qualities and have learnt to accept their limitations. They will have a good level of mutual acceptance and appreciation. But even people that we know well can continue to surprise us. We can discover something about them that we never noticed before. We can suddenly be reminded of the extraordinary mystery of the other person, the otherness of someone whom we know and love. We realize more clearly that the other person is different to me and will always remain a mystery to me, even though I know them as well as I know anyone. If we were to ask someone who really knew us, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and then asked them to write a couple of paragraphs about us, we might not recognize ourselves in what they would write.

There is always more to us than someone else’s view of us, even someone who knows us very well. Notice how Jesus asks his disciples two questions. The first was easy enough, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Their answers made some sense in so far as they went, ‘John the Baptist, Elijah, one of the prophets.’ Yes, Jesus was a prophetic preacher who proclaimed God’s word. Yet, to call him a great prophet does not go far enough. The second was a more probing question, ‘Who do you say that I am?‘ Peter’s answer went beyond what other people had imagined, ‘You are the Christ, the Messiah,’ he said. Peter meant, ‘you are our Messiah, the one we have been waiting for, the one whose coming the prophets foretold.’

Yet, in spite of his good answer to question, Peter still had much to learn. The term ‘Messiah’ meant different things to different people. Probably Peter thought Jesus would somehow help to drive the occupying Romans from the land of Israel. But this was not the kind of Messiah Jesus understood himself to be. At this point in this ministry he understood that far from leading a movement to drive out the Romans, he would end up on a Roman cross, crucified like a common criminal. Faithfulness to his mission would cost him his life. When Jesus began to articulate this reality Peter rebuked Jesus. This was not Peter’s idea of a Messiah. Peter could not accept the otherness of Jesus, the mystery of Jesus’ identity. Peter was comfortable telling Jesus who he was, but when Jesus began to reveal who he really was and what that entailed Peter became distinctly uncomfortable.

We probably all find it easier telling people who they are than listening to people tell us who they really are. In particular, we can struggle to hear the story of someone’s imperfection, especially if our picture of them has been one that doesn’t allow for that. Peter wasn’t able to hear Jesus talking about himself as a broken, failed, rejected Messiah. It was really only after the resurrection that Peter and the disciples were able to come to terms with such imperfection, such failure. It can be a struggle for us to accept failure and imperfection in others and also to accept our own imperfection. Jesus could accept his own failure, his own imperfection, because he trusted in God as one who would make him whole. Because he could accept his own failure, his own imperfection, he was at home with the failure and imperfection of others. The broken, the failures of this world, flocked to him, and in his presence they came alive. We will more easily accept our own imperfection and failures if we know in our heart of hearts that we too can approach the Lord as one who can make us whole. The Eucharist has been described as bread broken for a broken people. The Lord who was broken on the cross for us is present in the Eucharist as our Life-Giver. We approach the Lord in the Eucharist in our own imperfection asking to be made whole, and asking also for the grace to be able to sit with others in their imperfection.

Machtnamh: Cad a cheapann tú fúmsa? (What do you think of me?)

Níl sé éasca go mbeadh a fhios ag duine go maith i ndáiríre. Beidh lánúin a bhfuil cónaí orthu le chéile ar feadh blianta fada go maith ar an eolas faoi cháilíochtaí a chéile agus d’fhoghlaim siad glacadh lena dteorainneacha. Beidh leibhéal maith glactha agus measartha frithpháirteach acu. Ach is féidir le daoine fiú go bhfuil a fhios againn go maith ar aghaidh ag iontas orainn. Is féidir linn rud éigin a fháil faoi na rudaí a thugamar faoi deara riamh. Is féidir linn a chur i gcuimhne go tobann ar an mistéireach urghnách ar an duine eile, ar dhliteanas duine ar a bhfuil a fhios againn agus a bhfuil grá againn. Tuigeann muid níos soiléire go bhfuil an duine eile difriúil dom agus beidh mé i gcónaí ina mistéireach orm, cé go bhfuil a fhios agam iad chomh maith agus is eol dom aon duine. Má bhíomar ag iarraidh ar dhuine a raibh a fhios againn i ndáiríre, ‘Cé a deir tú go bhfuil mé?’ agus ansin d’iarr orthu cúpla míreanna a scríobh faoi dúinn, ní fhéadfaimis féin a aithint cad a scríobhfeadh siad.


(Saint Cornelius, pope, and Cyprian, bishop, martyrs)

Cornelius was bishop of Rome from 251-253 in a time of severe persecution under the emperors Decius and Gallus. His mild, pastoral style in dealing with those who had lapsed to save their lives was rejected by the anti-pope, Novation, but was supported by the highly-esteemed Cyprian of Carthage.

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