Saturday, September 15, 2012
24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
MEMORIAL, STS. CORNELIUS AND CYPRIAN
24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – B
Is 50:5-9a / Jas 2:14-18 / Mk 8:27-35
The Lord Yahweh has opened my ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn. I offered my back to those who strike me, my cheeks to those who pulled my beard; neither did I shield my face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord Yahweh comes to my help. So, like a flint I set my face, knowing that I will not be disgraced. He who avenges me is near. Who then will accuse me? Let us confront each other. Who is now my accuser? Let him approach. If the Lord Yahweh is my help. who will condemn me? All of them will wear out like cloth; the moth will devour them.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, to profess faith without showing works? Such faith has no power to save you. If a brother or sister is in need of clothes or food and one of you says, "May things go well for you; be warm and satisfied," without attending to their material needs, what good is that? So it is for faith without deeds: it is totally dead. Say to whoever challenges you, "You have faith and I have good deeds; show me your faith apart from actions and I, for my part, will show you my faith in the way I act."
Jesus set out with his disciples for the villages around Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" And they told him, "Some say you are John the Baptist; others say you are Elijah or one of the prophets." Then Jesus asked them, "But you, who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah." And he ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed, and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly, so that Peter took him aside and began to protest strongly. But Jesus turning around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, "Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking not as God does, but as people do." Then Jesus called the people and his disciples, and said, "If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; and if you lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it.
In today's Gospel, Jesus warns his disciples of what lies at the end of his public ministry: his death on the cross. They react strongly against the idea of Jesus' life ending in humiliation and failure. They have not yet learned the crucial aspect of God's nature and God's love that Jesus' death will reveal. "Taking up the Cross" is only worthwhile if it refines and strengthens our capacity to love and to identify with others in their needs and weaknesses.
The symbol of the Cross has often been the center of an unhealthy cult of suffering. Some older forms of prayer and devotion gave the impression that pain and suffering were beneficial in themselves. Victims of injustice were advised to see their situation as an expression of God's will and encouraged to accept it piously, "sanctifying themselves" by doing so. This was a great means of whitewashing oppression and excusing the abuse of power. Abuses and injustices anger God and should be eradicated.
On the other hand, today's society fosters a cult of personal comfort. Advertisements tell us to create a life of blissful contentment for ourselves just by buying the right products. The mass consumer economy encourages selfish indulgence, immediate gratification, the instant removal of anything that causes pain or anguish, and heartlessness towards other people. Still, some form of suffering, some difficulties and setbacks, are unavoidable; our choice is in how we respond to them.
Some people respond in a bitter and resentful way, asking, "Why me?" Their experience of suffering only makes them more closed and self-absorbed. Meanwhile, others become more appreciative and more sensitive to what others are going through. Personal experience enables them to put themselves in the other person's place.
Today's Gospel is about the choice that God made. The Triumph of the Cross is not any other kind of triumph except the triumph of God's love and self-sacrifice over evil and sin. Like the prophets before him, Jesus preached his message passionately and even violently. If Jesus had been less so, if he had chosen to avoid antagonizing certain powerful sections of his society, he would never have ended up on the Cross. When it finally happened, his disciples were ashamed of him. But later on, after Jesus' Resurrection, the members of the first communities of Christians reflected more profoundly on the significance of Jesus' refusal to resist the plot against him, and they quickly accepted Isaiah's description of Jesus in today's first reading as the Suffering Servant.
God's idea of His own status or power has nothing to do with maintaining a sense of superiority and avoiding humiliation. The heart of God's nature is love: not in the way that people often think about it today, where the desire for love is really a desire for their own happiness or satisfaction, but a love that means being completely free from the grip of self-seeking motives, ready to suffer and to renounce the age-old ways of violence and self-assertion. The readings tell us that, in the person of Jesus, we have the fullest picture of what God is like, while at the same time Jesus shows us what we can be like if we open ourselves as fully to God as he did. Jesus does not only predict his own death, he informs the disciples that if they are not prepared to "renounce themselves and take up their cross" they cannot be true practitioners of the Gospel.
Being a Christian does not mean allowing ourselves to be trampled upon, but "the Cross" is going to be present in our lives in various forms of hardship: sickness, pain, loneliness, failure, sometimes in forms of suffering that are small and relatively trivial, at other times enormous and overwhelming. Indeed the more we imitate Jesus' own commitment to truth and his willingness to make powerful enemies by our allegiance to the values of the Kingdom, the truer this will be.
Only by growing in the spirit of compassion and service toward others – in spite of suffering, injustice, and misrepresentation – that we will draw closer to God. If suffering makes us violent, hard-hearted, and closed-in on ourselves, then we will be cutting ourselves off from God and from the healing, transforming power of his grace. As the embodiment and revelation of God on earth, Jesus faced this dilemma throughout his ministry, and it is only if we follow the path that Jesus took when suffering and unhappiness come our way, that the Cross will be a triumph in our lives as it was in Jesus' life.
We pray …
… for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the unborn.
… for the speedy recovery and healing of Fr. Ismael Zuloaga, SJ
… for the personal intentions of
- Anabelle Alves
- Luis Gonzalez
… In Memoriam: Eriberta C. Calvario
… for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary.
- Birthday: Lucia Uy
- Wedding Anniversary: Vincent & Chia Sui Lim
- Birthday: Imelda Reyes+
… for families who are in need of healing
… for world peace and reconciliation.
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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