24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2018

24B18.   Isaiah 35:4-7a.  “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” This is one of the Servant Songs or Servant-of-the-Lord oracles where the prophet proclaims to the sinful people what the Lord wants them to hear no  matter how shamefully he, the prophet, is treated, trusting that the Lord will save him by proving him right.  As the New Testament people we see these verses as written also to refer to Jesus when he came 500 years after they were written.

Mark 8:27-35.   Jesus “asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’” Continuing, “He asked them, ‘but who do you say that I am?’ Peter said to him in reply, ‘You are the Christ,’” which means the Messiah or Savior.  He told them he would be rejected by the Jewish religious establishment, be killed but rise after three days.  Peter, having in mind the publicly accepted notion that the Messiah would be a victorious king who would drive the Romans out, rebuked Jesus for thinking that those kinds of things would happen to him.  Jesus, turning the tables, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  God’s plan was not to get things done through muscle and sword but with love and sacrifice. God’s ways are not our ways.  Following Jesus example, God’s way is accepting the cross that God gives us.  “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”   It is quite natural to try to live our lives independently.  To try to save our life on our own without the Savior will always be disastrous because only God has the resources to gain salvation.  Giving our lives over to God, always living dependent on Jesus and obedient to his will, will give us the salvation we can never get on our own.

James 2:14-18.  In many places in Paul’s epistles, he says it is not by works that we are saved but by faith.  Paul tried to convert the Jews in the diaspora in the Greek speaking world but found them quite resistant to his efforts.  In effect they were saying to him that the Hebrew Torah or Law found in the Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament was their Messiah, not Jesus.  Paul retorted that, not by fulfilling the works required by the Law, but by putting our faith in Jesus, our Messiah and Savior, could we gain salvation because only God can give salvation, not our works without God.  Apparently James was writing against a misinterpretation of Paul that all one had to do was to believe in Jesus and then do nothing.  Paul himself never failed by the works of his ministry to bring the faith to others.  Also in 1 Corinthians 16:1 -4, Paul calls upon the faithful to contribute to the needy in Jerusalem.  Genuine faith produces loving actions for the benefit of others.  “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  Remember from Matthew 25:42-46 when Jesus in his parable said: “For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’  Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’  He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  Out of his great love for us, Jesus put his love for us into action.  He offered himself for us on the cross.  There is no real faith where there is no life of loving.  In 1 Corinthians 13:13, Paul wrote: “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”