24th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 12 September 2021 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 50: 5-9a; Responsorial: Psalm 116; II: James 2: 14-18; Gospel: Mark 8: 27-35
“The Lord God opens my ears that I may hear…” So begins the reading from the powerful prophecy of Isaiah that we read today. In a world filled with so much noise and commotion, it is often very hard to hear God’s voice. But the Word of God we share today can truly bring us to a place where our ears, our heart can be better open to God.
Christ would always seek to open our ears and speak to our heart at the Cross. This especially means the place of His Passion. But the cross where we would hear Jesus is also at life’s crossroads, whenever we are at a place of important decisions or choices for our soul and for eternity. These choices may be very simple or they may be far more complex.
Sadly many of the choices we make in life in this 21st century are made in minutes or even seconds. Decisions are made on actual highways or at sleepy little county roads. We also make these crossroad choices in the ever faster-moving world of social media, and APP-directed messaging. Whatever, wherever, whenever we make these significant choices we are at a crossroads and Christ would long to help us with our decisions.
The Psalmist expresses this basic fact of life in the refrain from Psalm 116. “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living”. A crossroads choice is clearly made in the very first words…“I WILL walk before the Lord…” The Psalmist came to a crossroads and made the choice…I will listen, I will go with the Lord. This is a decision that will be made daily, sometimes moment-by-moment, as we seek the pathway of God.
The disciples are at such a place in our Gospel reading. They have left their former ways and have chosen to follow Jesus. Many are their questions. Many are their uncertainties. But they are learning to listen to Jesus, Emmanuel, God with them. And as they listen Christ opens their ears for a question. He brings them to a crossroads. “Who do YOU say that I am? They are at a place where God is seeking to reveal His Presence in an ever-deeper way. Peter responds: “You are the Christ.” Peter has made a decision to draw even closer to God. Now it is vital to note the following context. Peter has made a profound, holy, and powerful confession before Christ! He is on the high road. Jesus goes on to draw him and the other disciples closer. He shares with them His upcoming betrayal, passion, and death. Peter, proudly corrects the Lord from his high road seeking to convince Jesus this cannot happen. The stumbling disciple is quickly brought to another intersection. Jesus rebukes Satan working through Peter and explains he is thinking, not in the ways of God, but as a human. Peter must decide…to continue to follow Christ. Jesus summons them all to Him and shares the most important crossroads for each of us. They had to decide if they would take up their cross and follow Him. They had to decide if they would choose to lose their life for God if they wanted it to be saved. They were at the crossroads of their cross. And they were learning, the closer they would take their cross, the closer they would be to their Lord. And the clearer they would know His call from His Cross.
But what did Jesus mean? How were they, how are we, to pick up our cross and follow our Savior? It is from the Cross, it is through God’s Word we hear and our hearts learn. A vital lesson in carrying the cross is given in the second reading from the Book of James. As we look to the Cross, as we see our Lord’s two arms we can see those two arms, the two sides of the Cross share His call to follow Him with our Faith and our Works. Jesus took His Cross to Calvary in faithful obedience to His Father. But it was not of faith alone. The Cross of Jesus was His holy WORK of salvation. His body was broken and His blood was shed to save us from our sins. And the very ‘social justice” work of God was seen in every step of His incarnation. It was seen to His dying moments where he forgave the penitent thief crucified next to Him. The call of God is eternally clear and simple. If we seek to follow Christ we will walk the steps of FAITH and WORKS, WORKS and FAITH. They cannot be separated. We are saved, through Christ, by this faith and this faith is lived, it is expressed, by our works, our actions.
And we take these holy steps with God every day. We take these holy steps especially when we come to Mass. We look to the Cross, to Jesus. We seek to hear His voice from the Cross, from our crosses. And as we listen we choose to place our trust in God, not in our feelings or what we may think, but in God. As we come to this Crossroads we are drawn to His Body and Blood that become truly Present on the altar. And as we seek to follow Him, however imperfectly, like St. Peter, we then grow in that Holy Communion. We choose to receive His true Body and Blood, even when we may see with our human eyes but bread and wine. Our FAITH and WORKS bring us to Christ. And the journey is renewed!
As we grow in communion with Christ we grow in both our faith and our works. As a part of His Body we come to the crossroads of our life in the presence of the Cross and God will show us the way. The Holy Spirit shows us the way of faith growing stronger both in the blessings of God but also in our trials. And God leads us to share in His work of mercy, help, and service. For as Jesus lived so must we, as we listen and follow His way of the cross.
There are two arms of Jesus, there are two sides of the Cross, Faith, and Works. But we must always remember they are brought together at His most holy and sacred heart. His Body is called to be a place of healing. His Blood is meant to flow in redeeming love and mercy. The Call from the Cross leads us to our places of decision, our crossroads. And it is there we choose to live, following Christ in faith and works and always seeking to draw closer to Him whose holy heart beats in the passion of redeeming love through His Body, the people of God.