September 16, 2018 — Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
IS 50:5-9A; PS 116:1-9; JAS 2:14-18; MK 8:27-35
Sometimes the Sunday readings bring peace and consolation. Other times they come as a swift kick in the pants. Today’s readings definitely fall in the latter category.
In the Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus begins to instruct the Apostles in what was ahead for Him – and for them. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” In Peter’s worldly way of thinking, Jesus should not have to suffer — and for that matter, neither should Peter.
But, rebuking Peter strongly, Jesus indicates He meant exactly what He said earlier. What’s more, He was inviting Peter, and all of us, to join him in this way of life that is costly and self-sacrificing.
Why? Isn’t Jesus all about love? Of course He is. He is love. And Jesus shows us by His example that real love requires toughness as much as tenderness.
Our second reading teaches that real faith in Him is displayed through service or “works.” In fact, this passage goes so far as to state that “faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
These readings make it clear that faith and love are not alive in us until they are demonstrated through service to others for the sake of the Gospel. Service of any kind will involve some self-denial. But when I embrace this way of life, I have the joy of knowing my faith and love are real. By laying down my life for Him, I gain a life that is really worth living.