This Sunday is the twenty-fourth Sunday in ordinary time. The readings, especially the Gospel reading, explain the basis of our Faith which is accepting Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and proclaiming Him through our living faith as Peter did. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by His suffering, death and Resurrection. Finally, the Gospel reading outlines three conditions of Christian discipleship, namely, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross, and following Jesus.
Jesus saw aspects of His own life and mission foreshadowed in Isaiah’s Servant Songs in the first reading. In the Song of the Suffering Servant, the servant suffers not for himself or for his inequities, but for others. Jesus identified Himself and His mission with the sorrowful figure of humiliation and suffering, the Lord’s servant. Like the suffering servant described in the reading, Jesus’ life was one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant Song provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah.
The second reading, taken from the Letter of James, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James tells us that our Faith in Jesus the Messiah should be expressed by alleviating others’ suffering through works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. In other words, professing Faith in Jesus and His role as our Redeemer is useless, unless we practice that Faith in genuine deeds of love, mercy, forgiveness and humble service as lived and demonstrated by Jesus. As Christians, we are obliged to meet the material needs of the poor and alleviate their suffering. James says faith without action is no faith; it is dead.
In the Gospel, in response to Peter’s profession of Faith in Him as God’s Messiah and Savior, Jesus foretells for the first of three times His passion, death and Resurrection. The reading consists of two sections: 1) the Messianic confession of Peter, who acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God,” and 2) Jesus’ prediction of His passion, death and Resurrection. This was followed by His clear teaching on the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Here, we see three elements of discipleship. First, denying self means, with God’s grace, evicting selfish thoughts, evil desires and tendencies from our hearts and filling it with God. Second, carrying the cross with Jesus means accepting the suffering one encounters on account of one’s faith. Finally, following Jesus means that, as followers of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God, by obeying what is commanded by Jesus.
The questions we need to ask are: Who is Jesus to me? How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life? What difference does Jesus make in my life? Have I really given my life to Him? Are there areas where I have excluded Him, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is through our daily lives? Who do we say that Jesus is when we are in the presence of those who don’t know Him, those who aren’t interested in Him? What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives? We are gathered here today in the name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a continuing memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration in which we encounter directly the Living God.
Do we have enough faith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ’s sake? Can a Church in today’s self-centered culture ask its people to sacrifice something for the sake of the Gospel? Jesus’ challenge to all would-be disciples requires more than “feel-good” spirituality. A true disciple asks, “Am I willing to sacrifice something for the God Who loves me?” What made it possible for first-century Christians to choose a martyr’s death? What has kept generations of Christians from losing Faith and falling apart when confronted by the violence and hatred of this world? Can we offer even the day-to-day sacrifices asked by Jesus when the world demands things of us that we don’t want to do? Are we ready to deny self, take up the cross and follow Jesus?
The work on the roof and air conditioning has been completed. Our church looks so beautiful, and I am very happy to see the new roof. Thank you all for being so supportive. As I mentioned in last week’s bulletin, we will bless the roof on Sunday, September 23rd, immediately after the morning Masses followed by breakfast in the hall. Please join us for the blessing and breakfast and celebrate this accomplishment as a community.
In addition I wanted to let you know the diocese is sending Raymond Philip Napuli, a transitional deacon for a year to our parish, starting September 14, 2018 through May 3, 2019. He will be staying with me in the rectory. As we welcome Deacon Raymond to our parish I request that you keep him in your prayers.