24th Sunday O T Year B – 15
Is.50:5-9, Jas.2:14-18, Mk.8:27-35
A pastor was visiting homes one day. He knocked at one door and after a while a little girl appeared at the door. Since he knew her from the church, he asked her, “Sweetie, do you know who I am?” The little girl looking at the kitchen area of the house called her mother saying, “Mom, there is a man at our door. He does not know who he is.
Some questions embarrass us, especially if they are personal. The confession of Peter on Jesus at Caesarea Philippi is an all-time confession of a disciple. But let it be recalled that Jesus did first ask his disciples what was the people’s assessment or view on him.
As the disciples’ answers suggest, Jesus was thought to be a prophet. Although, Jesus had an association with the prophets, it appeared that he was not satisfied with those answers because, the truth is; he is more than a prophet. Thus he asked another question,
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus must have expected a better and deeper answer from the disciples because of their intimacy with him. It was Peter who rightly answered, “You are the Messiah!” It then appeared that Jesus must have agreed with what Peter had said, but, a different understanding of a Messiah, the Messiah who suffers.
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 we would be slightly uncomfortable with someone who knew exactly every detail of life well in advance! We are not sure we could relate to that as being realistic, or being anything near what we ourselves 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 our Christian vocation involves facing up to the fact that we have to die to ourselves many times in the service of others. This prospect can cause us to hold back, to delay, to try to avoid. We put off facing up to something we should do, in the hope that it may go away by itself.
This includes patterns of behavior, addictions, compulsions, and injustice to others. We know rightly what we should do, but it seems to be too difficult, so we keep postponing doing anything about it, and then, perhaps, life is over, and we 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. Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection.
Finally, it outlines the three conditions of Christian discipleship, namely, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus. In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, in chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant.
Like the servant described in today’s first reading, Jesus’ life was one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah.
The second reading reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James tells us that our Faith in Jesus the Messiah should be expressed in alleviating others’ suffering through works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual.
This Sunday we begin a series of seven Sunday Gospel readings from Mark’s account of the journey of Jesus and his disciples from northern Galilee to Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus gave instructions about his identity and what it meant to follow him (discipleship).
Today’s Gospel, relating the first of Jesus’ three prophecies of his passion, death and Resurrection, consists of two sections: the Messianic confession of Peter and Jesus’ prediction of his Passion, death and Resurrection, followed by his clear teaching on discipleship.
Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he really was, then his entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless. Hence, he decided to ask a question in two parts. The first question is, “What is the public opinion?” and the second is, “What is your personal opinion?”
What does Jesus mean to me personally? Founder of a religion? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? Son of God and personal Savior? This can perhaps be broken down into other questions: “How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook?
What difference does Jesus make in my life? Have I really given my life to him? Are there areas where I have excluded Him, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is in our daily life? Who do we say that Jesus is when we are in the presence of those who don’t know him, those who aren’t interested in him?
We are gathered here today in the name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a continuing memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration in which we encounter directly the Living God.
We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our life to him. Amen.