Sunday, September 16, 2012 by Food for Thought
FirstReading: Is 50:5-9a
Psalm: Ps 114:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
SecondReading: Jas 2:14-18
Gospel: Mk 8:27-35
Jesus came as a poor carpenter from an obscure town of Nazareth, and became a wandering preacher. He refused to fulfill the role of a triumphal Messianic king. So, the people rejected him even though he was fulfilling the prophecies concerning the Messiah.
After three years of public ministry, when he knew the end was near, it was important for him to know if his closest disciples understood. So he asked the question “Who do people say that I am?” The answers were not very satisfactory. The highest tribute that people could give him was that he was one of the great prophets. All these are information and hearsay.
And now Jesus asks his disciples, and you and me, “Who do you say I am?” The question has been central, has been crucial, to all Christians since the time of Jesus. It’s the same question that each one of us will have to answer Jesus – “Who is Jesus to you?” Is he a historical figure of over 2,000 years ago? Is he a teacher, a rabbi? Is he just a great person? Is he a friend, a brother? Is he God? Is he your No. 1 in life? Or, do you think of Jesus at all? On our answer depends in large measure the way we order our lives, the way we live. The response Christ awaits is not a mere intellectual act. It involves what we believe, how we worship, the way we live. Who, then, do I say Christ is? He is the center of the world. Apart from him liturgy is just playacting. Communion is merely a ritual. My whole life should echo the response of Peter to Jesus at the lakeshore breakfast. Peter responded with all hisheart, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
That brings us to another question ? “What do you think of your sisters and brothers?” This powerful passage from James shows that it is inseparable from genuine love for Christ. “Whatever good is it if [you] say [you] have faith but have not works? Can [your] faith save [you]? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, `Good-bye and good luck, keep warm and well-fed,’ but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice, it is thoroughly lifeless.” (James 2:14-17)
These challenging words are further spelled out by God through the prophet Micah, who proclaimed: “What does the Lord require of you? Do justice and love steadfastly?” (Micah 6:8); and on the lips of Isaiah, “Bring no more vain offerings?. Seek justice, correct oppression, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17) And Jesus at the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord? has anointed me to preach good news to the poor?, to set free the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18) Have these words have any impact on our lives? Or, is our reaction that of “What do I care?”
Do the Word and Eucharist we share transform us to be men and women for others? Does Liturgy move our life, from Church to world, from Christ to the crucified?
Sacrifice is suffering with a purpose. Our world has long since learned a painful lesson: Perfect oneness with someone or something beloved ? man, woman, or child, music or medicine, knowledge or art can be achieved only in terms of self-giving, only in terms of love.
In the Christian mystery the self-giving love was summed up by Jesus in today’s Gospel: “If you want to come after me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow in my steps.” A big if: If you want to come after him, if you want to be his disciple, if you love him enough to suffer for him as willingly as he was crucified for you.
Our world has long since learned a painful lesson: Perfect oneness with someone or something beloved – man, woman, or child, music or medicine, knowledge or art – can be achieved only in terms of self- giving, only in terms of love.