24th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2009

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 13, 2009

Reading 1

Is 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?
Responsorial Psalm
Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (9)I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
I love the LORD because he has heard
my voice in supplication,
Because he has inclined his ear to me
the day I called.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
The cords of death encompassed me;
the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;
I fell into distress and sorrow,
And I called upon the name of the LORD,
“O LORD, save my life!”
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
Gracious is the LORD and just;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD keeps the little ones;
I was brought low, and he saved me.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
For he has freed my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.
or: Alleluia.

Reading II
Jas 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.

Mk 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.”

This happened in one of our monasteries. Well, when it comes to recruiting vocations we are all very choosy and particular. But in some countries when there are no vocations for priesthood or to religious life, we always are lenient with regard to getting sufficient information about a candidate to priesthood or religious life. This happened in one of our monasteries of course in Europe. The superior was overwhelmed with joy when he came to know that a person wanted to join our congregation. It was about a man who was 45 years old. We term this kind of vocation as late vocation. We are also happy such persons come with a lot of experience in the world. The superior in consultation with the other priests in the monastery takes a decision to admit him to the monastery for a live-in experience of religious life.

This late vocation begins his life in the monastery. He is very faithful to all the expectations of the monastic life. He is regular for prayer, regular for community activities, and extra generous towards duties and works that have been entrusted to him. Well, the most interesting and appalling of it is his dogged faithfulness to two hours of silent prayer, as is expected of each friar. The days pass, months pass. The superior of the house is well impressed and quotes this late vocation as the ideal of the community on days of recollection and retreat. This late vocation becomes a headache to all the other members of the community because they can’t beat him in his regularity and observance. On some occasion the superior even tells the subjects to take a good look at this late vocation and learn from him.

Then the day comes that he must proceed to higher level of formation. He is asked to prepare himself to go to the postulancy a period of preparation and intense formation before entering the Novitiate experience. He is sent home for a few days and come back to leave for the Novitiate. He comes back happy and content and the superior takes an extra advantage of this late vocation to do some works in the monastery. During this time something extraordinary happens. The police come to the monastery looking for a guy who had escaped from a prison since 8 months and they show the photographs and details to the superior. The superior is stunned. That is the guy, the late vocation, who has been living with the friars, who has in fact a criminal record with 4 murders in his pocket. Nothing doing, he is rearrested and taken to jail.

Looking at this story we are reminded of one thing, that no one can judge a person by mere appearances. Jesus himself had said, do not judge, that you may not be judged. When it comes to learning the question of Jesus the same things disturbs us, why on earth Jesus asked a question about himself? Well, we know from the previous Sunday that Jesus had warned not to make publicity about him especially in connection with the miracle of healing a deaf and dumb person. Of course all were attracted towards Jesus not for his kingdom preaching but towards his miracles.

Today’s Gospel speaks of two things. One when Jesus asks who do the people say that he is? The answer is that he is Elijah and some say John the Baptist. Then the question is directed toward them “who do you say that I am?” Jesus wants a direct answer from them as to what they felt about him?

Well that was a tough question that the disciples were to answer. Then comes the affirmation of Jesus that the one who comes after him must carry his daily cross and follow him. The disciples had different expectations from Jesus, but Jesus was clear about his call, his destiny and his final triumph.

The passage for our consideration is the revelation of Jesus as the Christ and the consequence of this revelation for those who wish to be his disciples. Below is a table of the parallels of this section in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke:

  Mark Matthew Luke
The Confession of Peter vv. 27-30 Matthew 16:13-20 Luke 9:18-21
The Messiah’s Suffering vv. 31-33 Matthew 26:21-23 Luke 9:22
Consequences for Discipleship 34-35 Matthew 16:24-25 Luke 9:23-25

Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ is a declaration on the question: “Who do you say am I?” In Matthew, the confession is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. The combination of “Christ (the Anointed, Messiah)” on the one hand and “Son of (the Living) God” on the other is suppressed in Mark and Luke. In Luke, the title “Son of God” and similar phrases as applied to Jesus already appears in the annunciations (Luke 1, 35) and in the genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:38). Mark already had Christ and Son of God combined in the title of his gospel. (Mark 1:1). In addition to this latter, he has a Roman soldier making a confession parallel to that of Peter in Mark: 15:39, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

When Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about suffering, it was because of his – and that of others’ – expectation of a political Messiah, a son of David. The Christ is not just a descendant of David. There is another passage in Mark where “Christ” is explicitly disassociated with the designation “Son of David”. In a polemical passage, Mark 12:35-37, Jesus asks the question: “How do the scribes claim that the Messiah is the son of David?” and then he interprets Psalm 110, 1 in such a way as to insinuate that the Christ is not the son of David but is one whom David himself calls “Lord.” The use of Psalm 110 – a Messianic psalm – in this regard, is also noteworthy since it ends with an allusion to a king who would suffer before he is exalted: “He shall drink from the torrent on the wayside, and then he shall lift up his head.” (Psalm 110:7)

Get behind me Satan…” Jesus’ rebuke to Peter is a rebuke to all who would misunderstand his Messiahship. In Matthew and Luke, the rebuke to Peter is to be understood as a continuation of Jesus’ resistance to the temptations of Satan in the desert. “Satan” is “one who puts a stumbling block.” He is the enemy whose main objective is to frustrate the progress of God’s work. God’s programme of salvation passes through the crucible of obedience and utter self-giving; it is a programme that Jesus had embraced. When Peter sets himself up against the way of the suffering Messiah, he reveals himself to be like those who have not understood the meaning of Jesus’ Anointing.

The consequences of Jesus’ Messiahship for his disciples are expressed in no uncertain terms: what he will undergo, his disciples too should undergo.

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.

The first part of the statement is clear to one who has read the whole gospel of Mark. The disciple is one who follows his Master. If the Master takes up the cross of humiliation and suffering until Calvary and dies on it so too the disciple. But Calvary is just one of the stations of this way of the cross. In the end, there is also the Resurrection. In a sense, this first statement about discipleship echoes the one found in the Gospel of John, about the disciple who is to be with Jesus wherever he may be, whether on the Cross or at the Father’s right hand (John 12:26):

Whoever serves me must follow me and where I am there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

The second part of the statement in Mark is already implied in the first. If the disciple truly follows Jesus until the end, that is, beyond Good Friday into Easter, then he too will enjoy the new life of the resurrection. Thus, he will truly save his life. The one who holds back and does not follow the path of the Messiah will not have life in the end. There are no short cuts in the way of discipleship traced out by Jesus. For ultimately, the measure of one’s adherence to Him is the measure of one’s adherence to the Cross.

In this passage, the Servant of Yahweh declares his total allegiance to Yahweh and his readiness to dispute with anyone who would attempt to oppose his work. For another article on the Confession of Peter in Mark, see “You Are The Christ.”

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”

In order to come to Christ, you must deny your worldly mind and drop your egotistical theology and beliefs that you have created and seek Him. You won’t seek Him if you haven’t denied yourself and ceased your mindless if’s and but’s.

Your second task is to take up your cross. Yes, you may be crucified in a myriad of ways for your faith because Satan does exist and the majority of people will suddenly dislike you because you are a true Christian. These are the trials of faith and faith in Christ is what allows you to have eternal life. If you are not tested and tried…question your faith! Faith cannot be strengthened by osmosis…you may be tempered in various ways,tested in various ways, tried in various ways, persecuted, confused, and spiritually attacked! (This is a short list…) Jesus was crucified for being the Son of God, you are a man or a woman…what makes you think it will be easy?

When you are tested… REJOICE! For eternal life is the reward! You are NOT ALONE. Why dodge the test of faith and live “well” for MAYBE 80 years and miss the opportunity of eternal life? What do you have to lose? The Christ will never give you more than you can handle and you will probably have a happy and fulfilling life…it’s just that what you think will make you happy and fulfilled usually isn’t the Truth.

3) Your third task is to follow Christ. Open the Bible, read the Bible, ask the questions. Seek His will and you will know how to do his will. Knock and the door will be opened by Him. There is a lot to uncover…time is His… it is never too late to seek Him. You either hear or you don’t hear but you have to listen in order to find out if you can hear or not! If you can’t hear… ASK HIM TO MAKE YOU HEAR!  It may sound simple, and it is…but extremely difficult at times…that is how you get behind Him just like Peter needed to be abruptly rebuked on…let the Leader lead you! The Leader is the Christ and Messiah who came in a tent of flesh and had the name Jesus. God Bless you and your families this week!