Mark 8: 27-35
24th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
16TH September 2018
Deacon Tony van Vuuren.
We face some challenging questions in our readings today, and it forces us to actually ask, “Is my faith alive?” Now for many of us, that’s the reason we come to mass in the first place! We want to make an effort to follow Christ; so we would probably say that our faith is alive and not dead.
But the interesting thing is, St. James, in the second reading, is speaking to the very same kind of people. He is speaking to people who go to Mass every Sunday, who are in the minority of religious practice in his society. Yet he challenges them to ask that question, “Is my faith alive?”
It presents us with the reality of what it actually means to be a true Christian. Are we being practical Christians as Christ was? St James reminds us that: “Faith without good work is dead or useless”.
Christ proved his love for us by being practical. For three years he cast out demons and healed both Jews and Gentiles. He prayed for his followers and offered his life for us on the cross. This is ultimate practical Christianity that speaks volumes.
St James is pushing us to act out our faith; to completely live the faith that we may have only in our hearts and in our minds. He is convinced that our actions are really important—more important than our words. St James is concerned about proclaiming the Gospel to someone who has nothing without offering them something to sustain and comfort them.
There are so many opportunities to be practical each day; just ask God to be present; ask Jesus to be part of our decisions and our thoughts and use the gifts and fruits of The Holy Spirit.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus asking that age-old question, “Who do you say that I am?” And as we hear; Peter professes his faith in Jesus, calling him the Christ, the anointed one of God.
It would seem to us that Peter’s faith was strong and alive. But as soon as Jesus starts explaining what his mission as the Christ will entail; spelling out the demands of discipleship – rejection, suffering, sharing in his responsibility for the human family; even if it means sharing His cross; Peter objects.
He is uncomfortable hearing about what the future has to hold. Peter has faith, but maybe it isn’t as alive as he had assumed. What Peter did get right were his words as far as they went. But when he came to acting on his faith, he failed. Mark’s Gospel does not spare Peter in relating his lapses of faith.
Who do you say I am? Is not a question we have to answer just once at a certain period of our lives. As we pass through various stages, our response will vary, depending upon life’s circumstances and our own maturity and faith. Christian life is a rigorous one, a daily challenge.
If we’re not being challenged to do more, we’re not doing it right. Jesus is not only the model who teaches us how to live our lives in accord with God’s will. His life, death and resurrection and his gift of his Spirit, is the very source of the good works or merciful deeds that we do or can do in his name.
We don’t have real fidelity to God unless that faith is producing works of fidelity. We need God’s grace, not only to profess our faith in words, but also to live it, to practise it, and especially if or when we find ourselves under pressure. In fact, in asking us what do we think of him, Jesus also implies that additional question: ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’
That’s the difficult question that our readings offer us today – is my faith alive? Answerable by each one of us here present; A faith that is alive, a faith that deeply impacts the way that I live, a faith that will ultimately lead me to the deeper meaning and happiness that God wants me to experience starting right here and now.
There’s a simple Ignation spiritual exercise that can help us with that. It’s a practice of prayer at the end of the day call the examination of conscience. (We have experts in the parish to tell you more) All it consists of is 5 to 10 minutes of quiet reflection and silence.
One doesn’t even need to do it in church! We can do it from the comfort of our own bed at night. Give thanks for our awareness of God’s presence through the day. Try going through the commandments or the beatitudes step by step to see if you were faithful to each one that day.
It might be tempting to say, “No, I didn’t kill, steal, or commit adultery today! So I’m good!” But look deeper at your life. “Maybe I didn’t kill anyone physically today, but did I do damage to their reputation?”
Examine our key relationships and responsibilities and see if we have lived them with maturity and true Christian purpose. And then at the conclusion, thank God for His grace and blessings of the day, ask pardon for our failures, and make that resolution to live a life of faith relying on God’s presence to keep our faith alive tomorrow.
As we celebrate this Mass today, we’re challenged to look at our lives of faith. Are we alive with Christ? Or have we grown comfortable with a faith that appears real, but actually has no life, no substance to it. Let us turn to the Lord, and invite him into our hearts through the Holy Eucharist, asking him for the gift of faith, asking that our faith will be alive in the way we live and finally we can ask for a deep and abiding sense of God’s personal presence in our lives.