FIRST READING (I gave my back to those who beat me.)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (50:5-9a)
The Lord God opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
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. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let the man confront me. See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong? —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9)
I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. (Ps 116:9)
I love the Lord because he has heard my voice in supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me the day I called. (R)
The cords of death encompassed me; the snares of the netherworld seized upon me; I fell into distress and sorrow, and I called upon the name of the Lord, “O Lord, save my life!” (R)
Gracious is the Lord and just; yes, our God is merciful. The Lord keeps the little ones; I was brought low, and he saved me. (R)
For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (R)
SECOND READING (Faith, if it does not have works, is dead.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint James (2:14-18)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. — The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Gal 6:14)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world. (R)
GOSPEL (You are the Christ…the Son of Man must suffer greatly.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (8:27-35)
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to 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.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must .. take up his cross and follow me!”
Back at the time of the Millennium of 2000, one of the most moving and symbolic celebrations for me in Rome at the time was the day dedicated to modern martyrs. It came around this time of the year when we celebrated the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross (next Tuesday) and the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (next Wednesday). This Jubilee day reminded us – as St. John Paul II so beautifully spoke about it – that the age of martyrs is not something of the long ago past.Martyrs are not those Christians who were devoured by lions or killed by gladiators or crucified in arenas because they would not deny Christ.
Rather, the celebration showed us even in the 20thcentury and now 2 decades into the 21st century, that we have many men and women who are martyrs of the faith, martyrs of justice and martyrs confessing the faith in front of worldly powers.
What may be disconcerting or problematic for many of us is the image of the innocent lamb led to the slaughter that we see in our first reading today. There seems to be something in our thinking these days that rebels against the idea of so passively accepting the cross of suffering. We prefer to fight, or to have character enough to accept the cross but with a bit of fury or anger or resistance each step of the way. Certainly, we do not see it as a positive value to simply be led to the slaughter like a lamb.
But the 1st reading also reminds us that the just person – by the life he or she lives – stands against those who have no concept of God, or who have lost any sense of God in their life.
The Gospel restates this in a slightly different way with the profound lesson of the “way” of discipleship as Jesus makes his “way” toward his death. A dramatic characteristic of this section is that the disciples consistently misunderstand his teaching – they do not want to accept the “cost of discipleship” – preferring to talk more about positions of prestige, and honor and glory.
But as we heard also in the Gospel, after witnessing the dramatic healing of the epileptic boy, the passage that comes just before today’s Gospel, where the apostles were unable to cast out the spirit causing the illness, and after hearing Jesus’ prediction of suffering and death, they are unsure what Jesus actually means.
And so, when he asks them what they were discussing, they were unable (or ashamed) to answer. What they were discussing were the world terms of prestige and honor. The irony of this is profound. “On the way,” when they should have been reflecting on the mystery of the call they received to FOLLOW the Lord and bear the cross, they trade ambitious desires for the cross. And the further confrontation between Peter and the Lord comes with the strong rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does but as human beings do.”
This was certainly not the reply Peter was expecting, but do we have the depth of faith to understand the harsh words may have been more words of love? So often, words are taken out of context and misunderstandings, hurt, and anger ensue. But Jesus IS love, and even words that to us seem harsh, need deeper analysis. Most parents understand this. They love their children and so they know through experience that they need to offer words not only of encouragement but also of correction, of guidance, and yes, even of rebuke when they make mistakes.
After the words, “Get behind me, Satan,” Jesus adds, “You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” Jesus had just revealed to the disciples the deepest mystery of his life and mission – the revelation that his mission will be to imitate the suffering servant and accept unjust punishment and death at the hands of religious leaders. But in this revelation, Jesus is trying to offer a lesson on how to bring good out of suffering. He allows the suffering in obedience and fealty to the Father to bring about our salvation. But to understand this mystery of suffering leading to redemption, we need a deep level of faith, and this is what Jesus means by learning to think as GOD DOES.
Jesus’ rebuke of Peter is a rebuke spoken in love to help Peter to break free of his own fears and limitations in order to be able to move more closely into the mystery of Christ’s loving sacrifice.
Brothers and sisters, how do we react when we face the struggle of the cross? The sufferings of Christ continue to be seen in our world in the plight of refugees, of those suffering from religious persecution, or from those suffering with painful sickness or facing death. But through the love and sacrifices of we, the sons and daughters of Jesus, we see that when we suffer on account of our faith, we are following in the footsteps of the Lord, taking up the cross each day.
Let us see today the divine blessings that will accompany our sorrows, as we learn to accept these sacrifices in accord with the plan of God – with HIS eyes. Lord, teach us to see only YOUR perspective in all that challenges us.
Celebrant: The Lord is gracious and just, a compassionate God and Father who protects and saves his people. Let us pray to him, trusting in the anointed Son he gave up for our salvation.
READER: For the leaders of our Church that they may keep the community in the faith of Peter, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all elected government leaders and representatives, that they may respect the right to life of the unborn, the helpless and the aged, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all religious and those living in consecrated life, that more young men and women may be called to share their lives in self-renunciation, penance and sacrifice, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the members of our community who suffer, that they may know the Son of Man who “was destined to suffer grievously,” and for the prayers we carry in our hearts today, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: [SMC only For deceased members of the Edwards and Tsoi families, for whom today’s Mass is offered, and] For the repose of the souls of all the departed, that they may see the Redeemer who suffered for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: God of mercy and compassion, through the merits of our Saviour, hear the prayers of your Church, confessing, with Peter, our faith in Christ your Son, who lives and reigns, for ever and ever, (all) AMEN.