Saturday, September 12, 2009

24th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B – (13th September, 2009)

24th SUNDAY of ORDINARY TIME – YEAR B – (13th September, 2009)

(Isaiah 50.4-9: James 2.14-18: Mark 8.27-35)

In a certain town a young girl came rushing home to her family and almost out of breath with excitement said that the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the local church had blood flowing from the heart. Before long many others had heard of this and soon the church was so full of curious people that others could not go in. Then it turned out that a leak from the roof had fallen on the red paint of the heart of the statue and caused what seemed to be blood to flow. Once this became known the church emptied almost as quickly as it has filled up. The previous Sunday at the three Masses the church was only a quarter full.

This incident is important because it highlights the fact of how many people expect God to act. It seems that they are more comfortable with a God of signs and miracles because, after all, God is God. Yet God nearly always comes to us in very ordinary ways and is present to us in the events and people of our daily lives and especially in times of suffering. This doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? Yet that is the way God chooses to reveal himself to us nearly all the time if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Today’s gospel incident is the Central Point of Mark’s gospel. Jesus reveals who God really is and what God is about. The disciples had shortly before returned from their missionary activity. They had seen a number of miracles. Now Jesus asks the very important question, ‘Who do people say I am? What have they been saying about me and how have you described me to them? What witness were you giving to them of me?

In answer to Jesus’ question Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, replies ‘You are the Christ’, that is the Messiah. Even though Peter declares his belief in Jesus as the Messiah, he has no idea what that implies. But now Peter obviously feels really good about his reply and is delighted when Jesus praises him. But as soon as Jesus talks about suffering greatly, being rejected and put to death, even though Jesus adds he will rise again from the dead after three days, Peter refuses to accept this. Obviously Peter heard about the suffering part but not about the resurrection statement. Jesus says to him: ‘Get behind me ‘Satan’, that is ‘do not be an obstacle’ in my way, which is what the word ‘Satan’ means. Talk by Jesus of suffering and death was too much for Peter.

Like all Jews of the time they believed that the Messiah to come would lead them to conquer all invading political powers like the Romans. But Jesus did not conform to that image. Thus Peter betrayed Jesus not so much from cowardice but because Jesus contradicted Peter’s idea of God which was not that of a suffering God but that of a triumphant, all powerful and majestic God. At that time neither Peter nor the others could accept, let alone even think, that Jesus could suffer. Jesus makes a threefold disclosure: that the Messiah must suffer, that his disciples must be prepared to share his suffering, and that his and their suffering will lead to glory.

What is our image of God? Who is God, who is Jesus for me/us personally? We may prefer to have a God of bleeding or moving statues or of extraordinary signs but Jesus is saying to us very clearly that this is not who God is.

Jesus as man learned this lesson the hard way. During his short public life people saw his miracles yet still rejected him. At the foot of the cross, the religious leaders said that if Jesus came down from the cross they would accept him. But he knew better and did not. If he had done so they would have been looking for more and bigger miracles.

He tells Peter very clearly that Jesus, that God is a God of unconditional love for us and that all true love involves suffering, because love is more concerned with the other’s happiness than with one’s own. Jesus led by example and his total love for each of us was shown by his terrible suffering and death on the cross. People got rid of Jesus since his demands to love were too much.

Jesus reveals to us that if we are to accept him as our Lord, we must accept his way of suffering, as part of our own way of life. It is easy for me to accept God when life is easy and enjoyable. But when suffering and pain come along will I then be faithful, trusting that God really loves me and cares passionately for me? We have to make the faith our own for it to be truly alive and influential in our lives.

So when I see a woman pushing her husband around in a wheel chair because he is paralysed and she is faithful to him now in this difficult time of his life or see a man taking care of his wife who has Alzheimer’s disease or a family accepting and loving their son as he is dying of AIDs etc. am I not seeing Jesus the Christ still in action in our world? Is not this what discipleship truly means and reveals to others who God is too whether they see and accept it or not.

‘Lord Jesus, help us not to seek a God of the extraordinary but a God in the very ordinary experiences of daily life. Wherever there is love, surely you are there. Amen.’

(Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA. 8th September, 2009)

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