OUR DECISION TO FOLLOW CHRIST
(A biblical refection on THE 24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME [YEAR B] – 13 September, 2015)
Gospel Reading: Mark 8:27-35
First Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9; Psalms: Psalm 115:1-6,8-9; Second Reading: James 2:14-18
And Jesus went on with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I am? And they told Him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered Him, “You are the Christ.” And He charged them to tell no one about Him.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly. And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him. But turning and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
And He called to Him the multitude with His disciples, and said to them, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For who ever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:27-35 RSV)
The question Jesus addressed to His disciples is the same one he addresses to us. Our baptism brought us into contact with Christ and His saving grace. As we grow up and come to the maturity that allows us to make responsible decisions, it is necessary to make up our minds about Jesus Christ. “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mark 8:34). This is a decision that must reflect what Isaiah prophesies of Christ as we have it in the first reading. “I was rebellious, I turned not backward” (Isaiah 50:5). Our response to this first reading, “I will walk in the presence of the Lord,” is a further affirmation of our decision to go with Christ. When we seek for solutions to the problem of our society, we must say with Peter, “You are the Christ (Messiah)” (Mark 8:29). It is foolish to look for salvation for ourselves or society in general, in anyone except Christ.
Our decision to follow Christ is only half fulfilled when we live our lives only according to the “don’ts”. Tommy observed all the “don’ts”, but he gave very little attention to the “do’s”. He never stole from anyone, but neither did he go out of his way to contribute to those who are hungry. Tommy could not be accused of cheating the other fellow, and yet you couldn’t say that Tommy was generous in lending a helping hand. And that’s the whole way Tommy’s life went – a person living his life in only half measure.
St. James, in the second reading today, is rather forceful on the minimum value of living your life on the negative side. “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). Incidentally, Tommy never misses Mass, but, then, he never participates either.
The following of Christ demands positive action. We have to make up our minds to let His words and actions have a definite influence in all the decisions we make. We must show positive works, and the faith that underlies those works. It will cost us sufferings of various kinds to be a full Christian. And Christ began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things (Mark 8:31).
If we will be Christ in the world – and this is the apostolate of the layman – then we must expect to suffer. And if we are not willing to do this, then we cannot hope to renew the world in Christ. So as Christians, we need to take a stand on violence, brutality, the killing of the innocent, the damaging of private and public property. Was, as it fought today, cannot be tolerated, much less glorified. The hatred of labor for management must stop. Yes, abuses must be corrected, but in a spirit of genuine brotherly love.
As Christians, we cannot sit idly by and watch millions of fellow human beings starving because of politics. The list could go on and on. Before we conclude, please remember that we cannot “cop out” our Christian responsibility by asking for someone to show us what to do. The only One to ask, is the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Creator of all, look down upon Your people in their moments of need, for You alone are the source of our peace. Bring us to the dignity which distinguishes the poor in spirit and show us how great is the call to serve, that we may share in the peace of Christ who offered His life in the service of all. Amen.
Jakarta, 11 September 2015
A Christian Pilgrim