24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
12th September, 2021

 

Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

Messiah, but What Kind of Messiah?

 

 

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader:        In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply:      Amen

Leader:        Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply:      Blessed be God for ever

Leader:        In our journey through life we walk the path Jesus walked, so it is hard for us to escape suffering, no more than he could. We remember his suffering and death, knowing that it brought him glory and that it will do the same for us. Today we explore this, inspired by Jesus’ example of service.

 

 LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9a

Introduction to the reading: Chapters 40-55 of the book of Isaiah contain the message of a prophet who spoke to God’s people during their exile in Babylon. Several times, the prophet speaks about a “Servant of God” who will one day deliver God’s people and face many sufferings in doing so. Christians have traditionally identified Jesus with this “suffering Servant.”

 

A reading from the Book of Isaiah.

The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious,
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I hid not my face
from shame and spitting.

For the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been confounded;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who is my adversary?
Let him come near to me.
Behold, the Lord God helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

The word of the Lord.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116:1-2.3-4.5-6.8-9 (R. 9)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/. I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.

I love the Lord, for he has heard
my voice, my appeal;
for he has turned his ear to me
whenever I call.

They surrounded me, the snares of death;
the anguish of the grave has found me;
anguish and sorrow I found.
I called on the name of the Lord:
“Deliver my soul, O Lord!”

How gracious is the Lord, and just;
our God has compassion.
The Lord protects the simple;
I was brought low, and he saved me.

He has kept my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
and my feet from stumbling.
I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.

R/. I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living.

 

Second Reading: James 2:14-18

Introduction to the reading: Among the New Testament letters, the letter of James is the one most attentive to social justice. Today’s passage offers practical advice about how to put our faith into action.

 

A reading from the Letter of Saint James

What does it profit, my brothers and sisters,
if a person says he has faith but has not works?
Can his faith save him?
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and in lack of daily food,
and one of you says to them,
“Go in peace, be warmed and filled,”
without giving them the things needed for the body,
what does it profit?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

But someone will say,
“You have faith and I have works.”
Show me your faith apart from your works,
and I by my works will show you my faith.

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Alleluia.

 

Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.

At that time:
Jesus went on with his disciples,
to the villages of Caesarea Philippi;
and on the way, he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”

And they told him, “John the Baptist;
and others say Elijah;
and others one of the prophets.”

And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
And he charged them to tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them
that the Son of man must suffer many things,
and be rejected by the elders
and the chief priests and the scribes,
and be killed,
and after three days rise again.
And he said this plainly.
And Peter took him and began to rebuke him.
But turning and seeing his disciples,
he rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan!
For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”

And he called to him the multitude with his disciples,
and said to them,
“If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s
will save it.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily

It was the national elections, and one Member of Parliament was electioneering hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch), he arrived at a Church braai. It was late afternoon, and the MP was famished. As the MP moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman who was serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line. “Excuse me,” the MP, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken? “Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.” “But I am starved,” the MP said. “Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.” The MP  was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the Member of Parliament for this constituency.” “And do you know who I am?” the woman answered. “I am the lady-in-charge of the chicken. Move along, Mister.”

The MP and the lady-in-charge of the chicken each tries to exert authority over the other by revealing his/her identity — who each is — and emphatically demanding, “Do you know who I am?”

In the Gospel Reading of today, Jesus asks the apostles the same very question as regards His identity: “Who do you say that I am?” but completely in a different context. Jesus was not exerting personal authority over them, but asking of these men who had shared his life for an extended time a simple and straightforward question.

On 1 November 2021, South Africa will have the sixth municipal election held in South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994.

If we meet with politicians running for the elections, we will see them putting their best face forward to earn nominations and electoral votes. But none of them are talking about making sacrifices for the greater good. An experienced political consultant would strongly discourage that: “Are you crazy! You will never win votes that way!”

After Jesus speaks about his upcoming suffering and Peter’s rebuke, Jesus addresses the crowd, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny self, take up their cross and follow me.”

That same political consultant might also say to Jesus, “Are you crazy! You’ll never win followers that way. No one wants to accept suffering, if they can avoid it.”

But Jesus was not holding back, or softening his message. Later, when Mark was witing about this, he tells us, “Jesus spoke this openly!” It seems God’s call to service also includes sacrifice. A disciple willing to suffer for their vocation speaks a clear message to the world: “God is worth the cost.”

Isaiah presents a suffering servant for our consideration. In order to stir his contemporaries to hear God’s word, the servant endures their rejection, mockery and beatings. God has good intentions towards the people of Israel in exile and slavery. Despite being met with severe rejection by those who most need to hear God’s good intentions for them, the servant endures the wrath of the very ones he has been sent to help.

Peter has just identified Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah; the one God has finally sent to free the people from bondage. According to the Bible, that seems to be God’s job description, to free and raise up the beaten down. Peter has the right answer, Jesus is the Messiah. But he doesn’t understand how Jesus will accomplish his mission – by self-sacrificing love. In Peter’s mind that wasn’t supposed to be how God would come to rescue the people – not through suffering! That was unthinkable, a suffering Messiah! Where is the triumph in that?

There is more to the message. It is bad enough that Isaiah’s servant and Jesus are going to accomplish their mission through suffering; but Jesus tells his disciples that those who follow him will have to do the same. The task he is giving them will require self-sacrifice. As I said, if Jesus were running for political office with that kind of talk he probably would not have gotten a single vote. Would you have voted for him? At this point of the gospel Peter certainly would not!

It is not that we disciples are masochists who perversely enjoy suffering. Suffering is no friend, It is not something we would want to choose.

But if we are willing to embrace suffering when it comes as a result of our Christian choices, it can have a redemptive effect and enable us to be centred on Christ and to the God he came to reveal to us.

In the normal course of events we would want to experience only joy – all the time. In the real world we live in, we can also experience sorrow and suffering as well. This is the condition of the world we live in. The danger can be that we abandon God if we experience any suffering.

Jesus completely immersed himself in our human condition, even experiencing suffering and transforming that experience into a total expression of God’s love for us.

How close to us is God? God became flesh: the God who created us, sustains us and every breath we take, will judge us and give us eternal joy. Ours is not a distant and uncaring God. Rather, God has taken flesh to show us just how close God is to us. Nor did God in Jesus withdraw or avoid suffering but, by accepting it, showed how absolutely close God is to us.

The Gospels were written to help believers like us understand who Jesus is and what faith in him means. Judging from the question Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” and Jesus’ critical response to him, the question Jesus may be asking us today is, “What are you willing to suffer for your belief in me?”

We are not going to be nailed to a cross for our faith in Jesus, but we are asked to make deliberate, even costly, choices because of him. Making a choice for Jesus means accepting both joys and sorrows – not just joys. It means living all experiences of life with meaning and purpose. If I don’t have Jesus in my life, if I don’t understand the purpose of my life, I can easily get tripped up into selfishness – discontent  – a sense of being lost – which can easily lead to  hopelessness.

To believe in Jesus is to be like him. Just as his way of life caused him to suffer, so if we follow him, we are also asked to accept the consequences.

After Peter named Jesus as “the Christ,” and Jesus spoke about his upcoming suffering and death, Peter took him aside and “rebuked” him.  That is when Jesus spoke sternly to Peter in the hearing of the other disciples, “Get behind me Satan….”

In the Scriptures Satan became the name used for the devil, but originally “satan” was the word used to describe an obstacle blocking one’s path. At this point Peter is trying to block Jesus on his path to Jerusalem, to his suffering and death. Jesus sternly reminds Peter to stop being an obstacle in front of him and go back where a disciple should be – behind Jesus, following him on his way.

What Jesus reminds Peter is also a reminder to us: we are to be disciples, that is, to do what Jesus does and in the way he does it. And if we need clarification, Jesus spells out the role of the disciple more explicitly:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny self, take up their cross and follow me.

“For whoever wishes to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Isn’t that a contradiction!

To an outsider yes, but to those following behind Jesus, as best we can, we know what he is talking about. If we have willingly taken up the cross, serving and loving in Jesus’ name, then we know what it means to have our lives “saved.”

From today’s Isaiah reading:

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.

Reflection:

Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee we’ll succeed. It’s not about success, but about being faithful. But how can we be faithful when suffering is the price we sometimes must pay for doing what is right? What will keep us from yielding and turning in another direction? Isaiah has a piece of wisdom and assurance for us today, “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.”

So we ask ourselves:

  • Have I ever suffered or been penalized for doing what was right?
  • What gave me the determination and strength to stay the course?

 

Prayer of the Faithful

Leader:        With confidence in the Christ, the Son of God, we present our needs to our heavenly Father.

Reader:

We pray for  Pope Francis and all leaders in the Church: (pause) that God will give them wisdom in addressing the wounds in the Church and guide them in renewing and restoring the community of faith.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for a living and dynamic faith: (pause) that the Spirit will strengthen us to confront evil, show compassion for the wounded, work for peace and justice, and manifest God’s reign amongst us.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for the protection of the human family: (pause) that God will strengthen those who are working to defeat the Covid virus, speed resources to those in crisis, and bring healing to all who are sick.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all the catechists of our parish: (pause) that they may effectively lead those entrusted to them to a deeper knowledge and love of God.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for the world, our common home: (pause) that through God’s grace we may recognise that we are all part of a fragile balance. May we hear the earth’s cry, and be moved to protect it for future generations.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US

 

Leader:        Let us pray for the care of creation:

God of the universe,
we thank You for Your many good gifts:
for the beauty of Creation and its rich and varied fruits,
for clean water and fresh air,
for food and shelter, animals and plants.
Forgive us for the times we have taken the earth’s resources for granted
and wasted what You have given us.
Transform our hearts and minds
so that we would learn to care and share,
and to touch the earth with gentleness and with love.

We pray for all those who suffer as a result of our waste,
greed and indifference.
And we pray that the day would come when everyone has enough
food and clean water.
Help us to willingly share your gifts, today and always.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader:        Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

All say:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:        Make us one, O God,
in acknowledging Jesus the Christ.
As we proclaim him by our words,
let us follow him in our works;
give us strength to take up the cross
and courage to lose our lives for his sake.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

All:               Amen.

Leader:        May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All:               Amen.

 

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