Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Catholic Reflections 690 : Twenty-fourth Sunday. Year B - Sunday, 16 September 2018

Homily Twenty-fourth Sunday. Year B - Sunday, 16 September 2018

First Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9
Psalm: 114:1-6. 8-9. “
I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.

Second Reading: James 2:14-18
Gospel Acclamation: Galatians 6:14
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

Please listen to my audio recordings of the readings, prayers and reflections for the Twenty-fourth Sunday. Year B - Sunday, 16 September 2018 by clicking this link here:   https://soundcloud.com/user-633212303/24b-16th-sept-2018-faith-hope-and-love-ep-114  (EPISODE: 114)

This weekend in the readings, we are reminded that our faith must show itself in ACTION, and flow into good works.  And in the gospel, Our Lord reminds us that following him is not about self-interest, but about denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following him, in HIS ways of service, sacrifice and compassion.   No wonder the three theological virtues are so important and go together..  faith.. that leads to hope and hope that leads to love that shows itself in practical action.
A Dramatic series of events in today’s Gospel. “…  the way you think is not God’s way but human’s.”

The readings this weekend remind us again that if we truly want to know Jesus, and WHO he is, we need to understand what he DOES. Truly believing in Jesus will always lead to practical actions, particular behaviours and specific attitudes, just as the truth of Jesus’ identity led to wonderful (and often surprising and challenging) actions and attitudes from Our Lord himself.

Once Saint Peter correctly named WHO Jesus is, when Jesus asked his disciples “who do you say I Am?” – St Peter says, “you are the Christ”  (God’s anointed one, the Messiah).  Jesus immediately sets about teaching them what “being the Christ” will mean. And, this is what utterly shocked them, as it still challenges us today. Jesus, God’s own Son, the anointed one, the Christ, the one who will save the people – must suffer grievously, die and then rise again.  What an astounding thing!  It would be an understatement to say that St Peter and the apostles didn’t think that was the role of the Messiah when using the term.  They would have thought he was some kind of warrior King who would banish the Romans and set up a new earthly Kingdom of God. Jesus was the hero, and the Hero does not get mistreated and die a horrible, humiliating death, (not in most people’s books).[i]  But Jesus said that you must let go of those concepts and listen to my teaching of how the Christ really should be and how he must act.

Also, just as importantly, Jesus shows us the priorities and values of God’s anointed -  he healed the sick, forgave sinners, welcomed outcasts, he looked for the lost. He invited all people to be part of God’s Kingdom. This was a “re-ordering” of values and priorities according to God’s values. And it was bound to cause a lot of anger and hatred from those who liked things just the way they were – because those people were benefitting from the present status quo (at the expense of a lot of others who were trapped in terrible situations, unable to get out). Jesus had to take on those opposing powers and resist them until they threw everything possible at him. He knew that they would try to kill him and succeed, and then, only then, would God’s victory over their evil be revealed in completeness.  Because you cannot bury God’s plans and priorities and you cannot silence God’s anointed one.  But Jesus had to crucify all the opposing powers by taking the poisonous fruits of their values and actions and defeating them on the cross.

This was, most clearly, the narrow and troubled road, but it was the only true road that Jesus, and all who would follow him, must take.

“The Messiahship of Jesus is one of service, of suffering love and of self-giving love. There will be no triumph apart from the Cross. To be a disciple is to walk this same path of service, suffering and self-giving love.”[ii]

The readings this weekend bear a lot of deep reading and reflection. Take for example the astounding first reading:  From Isaiah, also proclaimed in Holy Week.  The Lord is my judge, not the court of human opinion or popularity. It does not even matter if others think I am (or am not) a faithful servant of God, all that matters is what God thinks, and God is faithful and just.  And more:  “The Lord comes to my help so that I am untouched by the insults.”  Notice this very important sentence;  God does not take away the insults and the wrongdoing and the troubles.. (neither does God desire these things, though),  but God does come to us to abide with us and support us, so that the shocks, tragedies and insults of this world that we endure because of our following of the narrow path, or because of the terrible things that come up on the journey of life, so that we can at all times be at peace endure through these things that we find we cannot change, in order to come through victorious on the other side.  God gives us the grace and peace and endurance to go through whatever may come. That is God’s greatest gift to us. It does not control the outer environment or stay the hand of those who use their freedom to be destructive, but it does give the power to oppose and defeat all the empty and hateful ways that contradict Jesus’ WAY.

And finally, I love today’s second reading. It says things so clearly.  From Saint James:  if you say you follow Jesus but your actions and attitudes don’t SHOW that in practical ways, then faith is quite dead and useless.  It is like that modern day, witty statement:  “If Christianity was a crime, would they have enough evidence to convict you???”

Actually, you know what?  I think for most Christians, (here in this community and throughout the communities of the world)….   there would indeed be ample evidence of their faith, by their lives and actions. But most of it would never be proclaimed from the rooftops, let alone mentioned except for quietly…   because we need not prove it to anyone else but God, for these practical actions are not done to win popular admiration. But so many wonderful people daily do the most beautiful acts of kindness, love, forgiveness and practical charity for others ...... in big and small ways…   (Many of these acts of kindness and love are so natural, so automatic and so humble that most people never even heard of it, but they are being done. And thanks be to God for all the wonderful people, living their Christian values. Faith showing itself in practical action!
Ironically, Saint Paul is the New Testament writer who has given so much to the Christian world about the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross….   It was such a scandal and stumbling block for the early church that the Messiah, God the Son, the chosen one, could be allowed to die in what looked like abandonment and failure in the eyes of the world and even in the eyes of many of his followers….  

It is ironic that St Paul should reflect so much on Christ’s DEATH because he only ever met the RISEN lord!  Paul never met the Jesus who walked on the earth and preached the good news. Paul only came on the scene and encountered Jesus whilst Paul was travelling along the road to Damascus and it was there that God said… “Why are you persecuting me?”  and Paul realised then, that the only person he was persecuting was this person he thought was a dead leader and his followers… Only then did he realise that he was on the wrong track.  This leader, who had died, was alive and risen as they had said he was, and that in persecuting his followers, he was persecuting Christ, his Lord and God.

But, if St Paul found it challenging to understand the meaning of Christ’s Cross…  it explains why those apostles who walked with Jesus on earth and listened to his teaching… found it even more difficult to comprehend Jesus teaching in this gospel today….  WHY should God’s chosen one have to suffer… HOW CAN it be that he MUST die????...  HOW can this be any kind of victory???  How will it achieve Anything????

Jesus wants to make it clear to all who are following him….  (as if to say…)  …“I am not the one who is making false promises of success…..  It is the liars and false prophets who promise wealth, money, gold, earthly kingship, success, health and happiness in this life…..  I am not offering this to you… I am offering you the way of the Cross….  The path of suffering, self-forgetting love and service… even to death…..     Be under NO misapprehension about what following Christ means….”  But also, trust that this path will gain the vindication, the stamp of approval from God the Father… // It is the right way.

Jesus asks the question “who do you say I am”   right at the halfway point of Mark’s Gospel… it is THE HIGHPOINT of the whole gospel……///  He asks this question just outside a town that has monuments to the Roman Emperor, regarded by the pagans as like a god…..  and at the foot of the hills where the source of the Jordan River comes from…. The same River in which Jesus was baptised… and the river associated with the people being led into the promised land, under God’s guiding hand……….  Peter had rightly worked out WHO JESUS IS>>>>>////that Jesus was the Christ….  A word which means, anointed one…  Messiah….God’s Chosen King….   But the reason Jesus silences him as soon as he says it, and rebukes him when he mistakes what to do next… is that Jesus now has to set about carefully teaching them….Re-educating them into the RIGHT understanding of what God’s Messiah means… It is NOT an earthly King… it is NOT a revolutionary who will bring war and retribution upon the Romans…..  it is NOT one who is offering earthly success… in the eyes of the world…. And this goes against the common expectations and understandings of the time…. And it’s going to be hard to get those mistaken concepts out of their heads….. and who would want to follow someone who only promises the CROSS…..  but its only those who believe that, who can trust that this path leads to the TRUTH.. and to LIFE to the FULL….but it requires that leap of faith and perseverance… and suffering…

Jesus calls us to follow him and not try to lead him; ….// St Peter tried to LEAD Jesus in today’s gospel……and Jesus quickly set his straight….//. It is possible to believe in WHO Jesus is… but…then spend our time trying to water down his message…//  and to try and take the challenging edges off it//…..   Jesus wants us to acknowledge the presence of the cross in our life… and in the lives of every person …  // not denying the cross…, not avoiding it…not pretending that life is capable of being lived without the crosses that each of us, (uniquely) must live…..//

Jesus wasn’t desiring suffering…// he wasn’t demanding the cross for its own sake…//….  he wasn’t welcoming difficulty in his life, any more than he would wish us to suffer…(he did go about healing people and assisting them) // but being faithful to the truth of the gospel’s values means burdens and suffering //.  Jesus knew that each person has their own cross to bear….  For each of us there are some things that cannot be avoided…  and so we are invited to live with these crosses in ways that are loving, giving, hopeful, and which shows grace and gentleness throughout//  allowing God to transform the crosses into means of life and love… … // to try and avoid the cross in our life… is to live dishonestly…… //

It is a hard concept to pin down….  Naturally we are meant to do everything to heal, to help and reduce other’s burdens….  But there are some burdens that if we try to avoid them, it would mean selling out on values that really matter…// or it would mean not really living fully/…….. it would mean… not paying the price for justice, forgiveness and support for those in practical need. And for all of us, eventually, there will be one definitive cross that each of us cannot escape, at different times and in ways not of our choosing.

Ultimately, the teaching of Jesus about the cross is actually a lesson in hope….  Jesus is giving us the best message we could hope to know….   No matter what happens in life… even if everything goes pear-shaped and doesn’t seem to be ending well…..   Our Lord is calling us to put our trust in him, that the difficult journeys that we all are called to take through life will eventually be vindicated with resurrection and eternal life in Christ….  And that gives us all the strength we need to endure whatever comes…  following the example of Jesus.. who goes ahead of us through it all…

St Paul Sunday Missal. 2009. Paper edition.

Celebrating the Gospels. Gaynell Cronin

The Summit. Archdiocese of Melbourne. Vol 39. Number 3, Aug, 2012.

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 [{selected psalms } - ***Psalm verses are (also) taken from “The Psalms: A New Translation” ©1963, The Grail (England), published by Collins.. **]

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{ “Mass In Honour of St. Ralph Sherwin” -published 2011,  Composed and Sung by Jeffrey M. Ostrowski 
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May God bless and keep you.

Twenty-fourth Sunday. Year B
Sunday, 16 September 2018)

(EPISODE: 114 )

The Lord be with you.
Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins,
and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.  Amen.

Memorial Acclamation

When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again.


Sundays Ordinary VIII

Euch Prayer II

Communion side.  pwk: 
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.

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