Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings offer different messages that converge in the Gospel. In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet declares that he will not turn back. He “gave his back” to those who beat him and his face to “buffets and spitting.” He knew the Lord would help him. “Who,” he says “will prove me wrong?” The prophet had true faith in God. With Isaiah, we learn to have confidence in the Lord, no matter how badly we are treated, and how hard the journey will be. The Epistle of James incites the reader to be mindful of one’s neighbor. It’s not enough to say one has faith. If one ignores the needs of a neighbor then they don’t have authentic faith. True faith is demonstrated through these works. This isn’t idle faith. It is “faith working through love.”
These different streams of faith converge in today’s Gospel. We know this scene well. Jesus is on the way to Caesarea Philippi with His disciples. He asks them who the crowds say He is. After several different answers, He then asks them “who do you say that I am?” Peter answers with characteristic boldness “You are the Christ.” The word Christ comes from the Greek word for Messiah, the Anointed One, God’s deliverer and redeemer for His people. Peter made a claim inspired by faith. Later on, however, Peter made a decision in doubt. He rebuked Jesus when He spoke about His coming Passion. Peter went from affirming his faith in Jesus to thinking “as human beings do.” Jesus sharply told him to “get behind me Satan.” Peter fell out of faith when Jesus said something that he didn’t want to hear. Jesus then goes on to declare a key aspect of Christian faith, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
This is not an easy thing to hear. Our natural instinct is to defend ourselves, to preserve our own lives. Yet this saying summarizes true faith in God and true faith in action. The book, The Imitation of Christ, says that if you’re not afraid of the saying “to take up your cross” you will not fear that Jesus will say at the Last Judgment “depart from me.” “If we die with Jesus on the cross, we will live with Jesus eternally.” Let us not be afraid to take up our Cross, for, by this sign, we conquer, we have life. Amen.
Reflection by Br. Matthew Marie, OSB