Homily Twenty-Fourth Sunday Year B Faith in Jesus

By 10:54 AM

Homily: Twenty-Fourth Sunday Year B

Reading 1: Who is Isaiah prophesying about? “I gave my back to those who beat me, my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting….The Lord God is my help.” From our perspective, it is Jesus in his passion which we will hear about in the Gospel.

Through the prophet God was preparing the people for the great mystery of his redemptive love, the suffering and death and resurrection of his own divine Son become man. But the focus of the prophet was not so much the sufferings of this servant of the Lord, but his resolve to trust in God in the midst of his sufferings. He endured this suffering even though he knew he was sinless and innocent. He would be true to his identity and mission.

In the midst of his sufferings on the cross, Jesus still could say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.” “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”  When Isaiah says that this suffering servant sets his face like flint, he means that he is resolved to be fully obedient to the Father and to do his will in love.

How often do we find ourselves in difficulties and struggles? How often we have suffered at the hands of others though we were innocent of their attacks? Do we turn to the Lord for his help? Do we trust in the Lord, knowing in faith He is near and will uphold our right? The difference between Jesus and ourselves is that we have sinned and he was sinless. At times, we may be reaping the consequences of our sins.

Reading 2: This is a continuation of the last Sunday’s second reading. James is balancing the emphasis Paul wrote that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. The works of the Old Law did not save us. This is true.  It is possible that in the community to whom James is writing some interpreted Paul the way some Christians do today. They say faith alone saves us.

James reflects on Jesus’ teaching about the need to feed and clothe and give drink to the needy out of love. This was very important in the life of the disciple. James makes that very clear. It is faith in Jesus Christ that saves us, but that faith must be expressed and lived in love by carrying for those in need. He says faith not expressed in works or actions is dead, a matter of external show. But faith accompanied with works demonstrate one’s faith in Christ. As Jesus said: “It is not the one who says, Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven but him who does the will of my Father.”

There are three parts in the Gospel today. First, the confession of faith in Jesus by Peter; second, the mystery of the cross is part of this; third, the need for us both to believe in Jesus and follow in his footsteps by embracing our own crosses.

First, the need for the apostles to make a decision about the identity of Jesus. They have been with Jesus for a period of time and have heard his teachings and seen signs and wonders. “Who do you say I am to you at this point of our relationship?” Peter, in faith, proclaims: “You are Christ” This is part of Jesus’ true identity. He is promised Messiah and Savior of the world.

Second, Jesus reveals to them what it really means for him to be the Christ. This is our connection to the first reading. He is the Suffering Servant prophesied by Isaiah. Jesus reveals that he will live out his mission as the Christ by suffering the cruel death of crucifixion.

To this Peter reacted negatively. Though he gave the right answer, he had a wrong understanding of its full meaning. Or maybe Peter really understood the implication of Jesus’ predictions of his suffering, but was not ready to embrace this himself. Peter was, in essence, telling Jesus to deny both his identity and his mission.

Third, Jesus rebukes Peter’s attempt to turn him from the cross. Instead, he emphasizes the disciple is to acknowledge Jesus’ identity and mission and embrace the mystery of the cross in one’s own life. Having faith in Jesus is not just agreeing with a set of statements about Jesus. Having faith means following him. It means giving our lives to him. Having faith means that we make Jesus our way of life. And this is the way of the cross, the way of love.

Who do you say I am? This is a question each disciple of Jesus needs to answer. If he is Christ for us, then how do we respond to this reality? Is he truly the Lord of our lives, at the very center of our lives? Do we embrace or run away from the crosses in our path?

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