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Friday, 11 September 2015

Reflection/Homily: Twenty-Fourth (24th) Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B (September 13 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Twenty-Fourth (24th) Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B (September 13 2015)
Theme: Who is Jesus Christ for You?

Examinations are important aspects of the learning process. It is always important to examine students to know how much they have learned and how far they can apply what they know to concrete circumstances. In today’s gospel reading (Mark 8:27-35), Jesus considered it wise to examine his disciples on what they know about him. The question was “Who do people say I am?” The disciples gave him the common conception among the people: “John the Baptist,” they said “others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.”  Jesus went further to ask them: “But you, who do you say I am?” To this question Peter replied: “You are the Christ.”
In our encounter with God, it is possible to have a vague notion of God. Most often, we presume to know God but we have to ask ourselves what personal description we can give about God. In other words, have we any personal encounter with God? Is our notion of God based on what others say about God or what we have experienced about Him? So, who is Jesus for you? Is he a judge, a saviour, a friend, a father, etc? I think Jesus may have asked this pertinent question to evaluate his disciples’ understanding of his identity and mission. Possibly, he had two things in mind, one to perfect their understanding of his identity as the Son of God and so increase their faith in him and secondly, to perfect their understanding of his mission as messiah of the world and so rather than see him as a political or economic messiah but as a messiah who will rescue the world from sin and death through his crucifixion and death.

As Christians, each opportunity we have to encounter Christ should deepen our understanding of his identity and mission and the result of this encounter should be an increased faith in him. Every day, Jesus allows us to encounter him in various unique ways. Sometimes, he intervenes in our ugly situations miraculously and we are filled with awe. In these encounters, God’s action is revelation of Himself and man’s reaction is an increased faith in God. In the various ways God reveals Himself to us, He expects us to respond with an increased faith in Him. This faith according to St. Paul is sufficient for our justification (cf. Romans 3:28) but according to St. James is also insufficient for our salvation if it is not accompanied with good works. That is why the second reading (James 2:14-18) reminds us that faith without good works is dead. Justification is God’s act of declaring a sinner innocent upon one’s confession and belief in Jesus Christ while salvation is God’s act of saving us from eternal damnation and admitting us into His kingdom in heaven. Thus, to be justified, we need to have faith (which is seemingly abstract), but to be saved our faith needs to be made pragmatic, in essence, accompanied with ‘good’ works.

St. Paul in his writings mentions two types of work: works of the law (erga nomou) and good works (erga Agatha). Works of the law are actions that are neither morally good nor bad; we observe them for the sake of the law. Examples include Sabbath observance, fasting, abstinence, circumcision, etc. Good works are actions that are intrinsically good and are beneficial to others. Examples include clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, taking care of the sick, etc. These are the good works St. James was referring to and Jesus also speaks of these good works as the basis for the final judgment (cf. Matthew 25). But it is not easy to do good works. Each time we intend doing good works, the devil looks for avenues to distract or discourage us. As soon as Christ revealed the plans of his salvific suffering and death, the devil used Peter to discourage him.

Jesus looked beyond mere Peter to see the devil behind his discouragement and that was why he  immediately rebuked the devil in him. We have to learn to be strong-willed when we want to do good and in doing good, we should learn to accept whatever suffering we encounter. That is what it means to renounce oneself, take up one’s cross and follow Jesus. That is the lesson we have to learn from the song of the suffering servant (Ebed Yahweh) in the first reading (Isaiah 50:5-9). The Lord opened his ears and he remained obedient despite the persecutions he received from people. Therefore beloved friends, today, let us pray for the grace to have a deeper understanding of the identity and mission of Christ and so align ourselves with his mission so that in suffering with him, we may not be deterred. God loves you.

1 comment:

  1. Very good and insightful homily. God richly bless you.


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