- Proverbs 1:20-33 and Psalm 19 or Wisdom of Solomon 7:26 - 8:1 OR
- Isaiah 50:4-9a and Psalm 116:1-9 AND
- James 3:1-12
- Mark 8:27-38
Thoughts on the Word:
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
This week I want us to continue our focus from last week on the idea of faith as an active and living thing. Last Sunday we focused on the words of James and his warning that faith without works is dead. We learnt in our reflection on these words that James wasn't claiming that works in and of themselves are able to save us - we are not justified by works - rather what James is trying to teach us is that Jesus in calling us to faith is not asking us simply to 'believe'. We are called to a living and active faith, and in this week's readings (especially those from Isaiah, James and Mark) we see what active and living faith looks like.
For this short reflection however I will focus on Mark.
Mark sets the scene for us in this reading, he recounts Peter's declaration of Jesus as the Messiah, and then moves directly into Jesus explaining what must happen to him. We shouldn't miss the importance of this framing of the story - the Jews were (and still are) expecting a messiah who would be a conquering king, who would rule the Jewish nation in the world. Jesus, though after establishing that the disciples knew that he was the promised messiah, begins to explain to them that he will be rejected by the religious leaders, and killed - how then could he be the messiah? Can you understand Peter's frustration and fear? He had given up everything, to follow this Jesus character in the firm belief that he was the promised Jewish Messiah - and now, this guy was declaring not that he was going to rule over Israel, and restore the nation, and faith of the people - rather he was going to be rejected by the very people who in Peter's mind would be the ones to endorse the messiah. Then of course there was the fact this bloke was carrying on about rising from the dead as well - what would people think? No this had to stop! So Peter takes Jesus to task for his claims that he would be rejected, be killed and rise again.
Jesus, calls Peter out for what he is doing - he has his focus not on heavenly things, but on human things - Peter is concerned about what Jesus says not because he has his focus on God, but because he is concerned about how this will reflect on him. Jesus then speaks to the crowd and his disciples after his rebuke of Peter - he declares where people who would be his followers must put their faith, and how they are to live.
We who would be followers of Jesus must do exactly that - follow him - we are to 'take up our cross'. Now lets be clear here, Jesus isn't asking all of us to volunteer for crucifixion - nor is he asking us to cart around a lump of wood for the rest of our lives. However what he is saying is that being a Christian will mean that you are looked down on, you are ridiculed and judged for your beliefs and your behaviour. When this happens your response though isn't to retaliate, rather we are to respond with love and compassion, we are to follow Jesus and emulate him to the best of our ability. WHen we are ridiculed or condemned for our faith we are to proclaim it all the more, for if we are ashamed of it, if we hide from the persecution we only show ourselves to be believers, and not followers - and Jesus will be ashamed us - just as we were ashamed of Him and the Gospel.
Be strong in your faith, be a beacon of love, of compassion and hope. I know I fail at this every day, but my failure doesn't dishearten me, when I see my failings I look to Jesus and give thanks that those failures are forgiven and that I can move on with courage to the next day, and try again to be the best follower I can be. I pray that you can do likewise.
I pray that God will richly bless you and yours this week.
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