Pastoral Sharings: "Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessageHomily from Father Alex McAllister SDS  
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for September 13, 2015

Jesus puts to his closest disciples a crucial question, “Who do people say that I am?” and then another even more to the point, “Who do you say that I am?”

These questions are at the very heart of the Gospel. If you take Gospels as a whole they give an account of the life of Jesus and explain his message; but having read and understood all this material about Jesus the question still hangs in the air, “Who do you say that I am?” 

It is a question for Peter, a question for the disciples and it is a question for each one of us. 

Of course, Peter gives absolutely the right answer, “You are the Messiah.” In St Matthew’s account Jesus goes on to tell Peter that he is a happy man because this was revealed to him by the Father and then continues with the familiar passage about Peter being the rock on which Christ will build his Church. 

This extra bit is not in either Mark’s or Luke’s account. In fact each of the Evangelists treats this particular exchange between Jesus and Peter in their own way and put it in different contexts. 

This is not something that should surprise us since we know that the Gospel writers were working quite a number of years after the events they are recording and were faced with a vast mass of material. They each tried to put the accounts handed down to them in a logical sequence so that it would be intelligible to their readers, hence the discrepancies between the different Gospels. 

Here Mark does not record Jesus making any remark about the truth of Peter’s statement of faith or the great blessing that this was for him.  

One explanation for this lack is that it is thought that one of the main sources for Mark’s Gospel was actually the preaching of Peter himself. If this is so, and Mark is more or less presenting what Peter said, then it is not surprising that he does not make a big thing of his profession of faith.

One can imagine that Peter in relating what happened on that day wants to emphasize what Jesus said and did that was most significant and so omits any praise he was given, as if not wanting to draw attention to himself. 

This statement of faith by Peter is actually followed in Mark’s Gospel, as we can see, by a rather dramatic prediction by Christ of his Passion. This is the first time he makes this prediction and it is all the more significant for that. It is followed by two other predictions which come in chapters nine and ten. 

Here in chapter eight Peter takes Jesus aside and remonstrates with him. This prediction of the Passion is quite incomprehensible to Peter and he cannot believe that anything like this could actually happen, but Jesus reproves him in the most severe terms.  

Then in the line about taking up one’s Cross and following him Jesus tells the disciples that death on the Cross or something very similar is not just going to be for him but for most of them as well.  

All in all this is a very salutary passage from the Gospel. Although not just salutary but significant as well since it contains the first unambiguous statement about Jesus being the long foretold Messiah and the first prediction of his Passion and Death. 

So what are we expected to take from this text? Well, the warning that each of us will face the Cross is crucial. We might not face the exact same circumstances as Christ but we know we are all going to face suffering and death.

The thing we should realize though is that embracing Christ as our Savior will mean that the suffering we will face in life will be redemptive; it will be one of the things which will help to bring us to eternal life. We should accept this as good news since it will benefit our eternal salvation. 

The traditional Catholic interpretation gives a very wide understanding to the Cross. Yes, it includes all the suffering and agony that is a natural part of life especially as we experience sickness and aging, but it includes many other things including all the irritations and problems that we will have to deal with in life.

Catholics regard all these things as being part of the Cross and realize that by consciously uniting them with the sufferings of Christ all of them can become redemptive. 

I am not saying that we should go out and seek suffering or bear pain when there are obvious ways of relieving it.

What I mean is that where we come up against unavoidable suffering then the best thing to do is to embrace it and to unite it with what Christ suffered on the Cross of Calvary. In this way it will rebound to our everlasting benefit and will actually help to build up the world. 

The same goes for the shortfalls and annoyances of others that we often have to experience. Sometimes the people closest to us have extremely irritating habits or do things that cause us aggravation or infuriation. These too can be offered up and so benefit us in eternal terms. 

By dealing with annoyances and the faults of others, and indeed our own faults, in this way we inevitably become more patient and tolerant human beings and this is something that brings a blessing on us and on everyone we live with.

  I think one of the most important lines in this particular text is where Jesus says to Peter, “The way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” 

I think that our biggest problem in dealing with our faith is to move from thinking in man’s way to thinking in God’s way. We are all too often preoccupied with ourselves, with our own interests and concerns. We find ourselves drawn to material solutions to our problems: if only I had more money, or buying this or that new thing will make me happier, or I’d like to get my own way at work or in the home. 

God sees things completely differently; his perspective is that of eternity. And this is the perspective we need to adopt. 

We need to look at our sufferings, our irritations and indeed our desires through the perspective of eternity. When we do this we see that our greatest concerns fade away and other values seem more important: values such as patience, endurance, hope, love and trust. 

It is these things that will bring us joy; it is these things that will lead us to life eternal.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
September 13, 2015

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Which Peter Are We?

This Sunday’s Gospel reading is familiar, but it seems to be missing some verses.  We hear Jesus asking his disciple: “Who do people say I am.” We hear Peter’s answer, “You are the Christ,” but then Jesus moves on to speak about how he would suffer greatly.  We are missing something.  Actually, we are missing a lot. There are no references to Jesus changing Simon’s name to Peter, no references to Peter being the rock on which the Church will be built, no references to Peter being entrusted with the Keys of the Kingdom.  All this is found in the Gospel of Matthew, but today’s reading is from the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel emphasizes the demands of Christianity.  For example, where in the Gospel of Matthew Jesus says, “Anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Mark expands this to “Anyone who loses his life for my sake and the sake of the gospel will save it.”  The good news of Jesus Christ demands sacrifice, even the sacrifice of our lives.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Classic

Mark 8: 27–35
Gospel Summary

Today’s gospel passage gives us an account of the most critical turning-point in the public ministry of Jesus. The stage is set by the seemingly innocent questions of Jesus about his identity. Peter speaks for all the disciples when he declares confidently, “You are the Messiah.” In view of the miracles of Jesus in Galilee that would seem to be an obvious conclusion.

Jesus, however, is deeply disturbed by this answer and the reason is immediately revealed: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly…” The clear implication is that he is not a Messiah in the political sense that the disciples understood. He is not interested in leading them into a war of liberation from the  Romans, but hopes instead to liberate them in a far more radical way from the bondage of sin and death.


Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—September 13, 2015

The disciples tell Jesus that people don’t know His true identity, but Peter, who did, was told not to tell them. Why?

Gospel (Read Mk 8:27-35)

St. Mark describes a conversation Jesus had with the disciples about His identity. He asked about the buzz on the street: “Who do people say that I am?” The answers were all wrong. Pressing the point, He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter got it right: “You are the Christ.” One might think Jesus would be eager to get the misperceptions cleared up. Why not commission Peter, on the spot, to go out and spread the good news? Instead, “He warned them not to tell anyone about Him.” Curious.


Meeting the Real Jesus – The question of who He was then can’t be separated from who He is today

You’ve heard of it, maybe: higher critical method, also called historical-critical method? It is the “tool” used in what is called the Quest for the Historical Jesus. As a method, it is a process of “deconstructing” the New Testament to get at the “real” Jesus of history, an attempt to reconstruct his earthly life to see if it matches up with what the Church says about him.

The essential question it asks is: Has the Church remembered Jesus accurately? Is there an actual continuity between a real Jesus, alive, teaching, and gathering followers, and a Jesus resurrected and exalted to God? Are both the same Jesus? It’s a way of asking “how did a nice Jewish boy like you end up savior of the world?”


The Epic Quest for Eden

What must it have been like for the first man and woman, to be expelled from paradise?

Beyond the unbearable guilt, there was must have been the sheer horror of it all: banishment from the presence of God, not to mention from a habitable garden with abundant food to a world of scarcity and wild beasts. Then there was the terror of death.

Scripture itself says little of what went through the minds of Adam and Eve or their descendants as they contemplated the loss of Eden, and, with it, everlasting life.

But we don’t have to imagine: One of the oldest texts in the world gives us a moving depiction of one ancient king and his epic quest for Eden.


Why Obedience Always Matters

At a recent Mass for college students in Manila, I began my homily by exclaiming, “God is good…!” and the students responded in unison and with great energy and enthusiasm, “All the time!” I then exclaimed, “All the time…!” and they responded with the same energy as before, “God is good!” My next statement had a completely different reaction from the previous ones. I said, “So God is good all the time; what about His commandments? Are they good for us all the time?” They were reluctant to answer in the affirmative with enthusiasm as they did before. We easily attest to God’s constant goodness but we are less convicted that His commandments are equally good for us all the time.


Finding God’s Holy Presence … Everywhere

Hourly every weekday and frequently during weekends, I stop everything I’m doing for a few minutes of intercessory prayer. I have a constantly open invitation to friends, family, acquaintances, my Facebook community and, well, pretty much the whole world to pray for anyone’s particular needs. So I have a long list of folks for whom I pray.

For a long time, I opened those moments with words such as, “My God, please accept me into your Holy Presence.” I thought it would be cool to lift up the people on my list while surrounded by all God’s angels and saints – with God looking on.

Then, while praying with Psalm 139, these words grabbed my attention in a new way:


Five Ways Catholics Can Make a Difference

Do we sometimes feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless assault on the Church, our beliefs and our families by the media and modern culture? Is it difficult to stand up for what we believe? Do we ever feel like we can’t make a difference? Many Catholics I encounter are struggling through daily battles to live out their faith and protect their loved ones… all in the midst of very difficult economic climate. It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up or remain silent, but that is not an option for us. We are called to do more. We are called to be holy: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’” (Lumen Gentium, Second Vatican Council, 39)


Understanding Christ’s Temptation

After John the Baptist baptized Jesus, the Christ was called into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit where He humbled Himself so profoundly that in the company of wild beasts and beleaguered by ravenous hunger after a forty day fast, He suffered the devil’s temptations. Jesus’ reasons for doing this on our behalf are many concerning the economy of Salvation, but let us recognize at the least that this unmerited act of mercy is vital component of the Gospel message. Fr. Gerald Vann instructs us, “in its symbolism we can see represented the whole life and ministry of Jesus.” Indeed, Christ’s temptation in the wilderness is worthy of arduous study and has been a prominent subject of Biblical exegesis from the early Church until the present.


Jerusalem Carmelites Live Where Jesus Once Prayed

JERUSALEM—“Welcome to our new reception room;” Sister Agathe offered her visitor a warm greeting. The nun is in charge of finances for the Carmelite Sisters’ convent on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Substantial renovations were just completed. Everything is clean and bright.

“The renovations help us to receive guests better, while at the same time protecting our enclosure,” the young French woman said. “After all, we usually do not leave the convent. However, many people come to us. We are deeply grateful to our benefactors and we can thank them best through our prayers.”


Hidden Glory: beautiful birthplace of prayer

The glory of God shines though hidden in both the fleeting joys and the difficult exigencies of this life.  Divine immensity disguises itself in what seems small and inconsequential: the haunting glance of a despised and marginalized neighbor — whether threatened by danger or death, whether in the public square or in the womb. Hidden here is God’s self-disclosure in my neighbor.

In a single moment this mysterious glory can shake the heart from slumbering indifference.  In an instant, we are moved away from the temptation to simply pass by and into the overwhelming need to be implicated and inconvenienced by the plight before us – whether a young person aching to find some reason for their existence or someone disenchanted by the unrelenting cycle of this world’s misery.


A Contemplation that Hears Heaven

Beyond every psychological experience in prayer, however enlightened it might be, there is a contemplation of the Gospel of Christ rooted in a whole new outpouring of truth. This ceaseless outpouring of love on broken humanity is always new because the Word of the Father, though unchanging, is never old. His voice echoes with unique and unrepeatable harmony – the harmony that causes all things to be, that saves them from every danger and that orders them all to their great purpose. Though hidden in weakness and vulnerable to every kind of evil, the Word constantly puts the eternal plan of the Father into motion.


Balancing Justice and Mercy

In the realm of religion there seems to be two categories of people according to two personality types. The first you might call the merciful. They say with Jesus, “Neither do I condemn you.” The second are the judgmental. They scold the person saying, “Go and sin no more.” The first are inclined to be too soft and let people off the hook. The second demand that wrongdoing receive a just punishment. Those who follow the way of Jesus Christ must attempt the same balance he achieved in which the demand for justice is balanced by the need for mercy.

In two recent decisions Pope Francis has showed the world that the Catholic Church does the same work as Jesus Christ in the world today.


A primer on where pope stands on gays, divorce, abortion

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is expected to raise issues ranging from climate change to income inequality when he visits Cuba and the United States Sept. 19-27. Francis has launched an agenda of reform in the Vatican and in the global Church, prioritizing different issues, and counseling a more merciful message. Here’s a primer on where the pope stands on key issues.


So what does the new annulment process mean?

Someone asked me this morning if I knew anyone personally who would benefit from the changes announced today, and I had to say, “Honestly, it’s all too new to tell.” I serve as an advocate in my diocese, helping newly divorced work their way through the annulment process; people who have already begun an annulment will likely have to continue under the old process, though, because the new law doesn’t take effect until December. And, frankly, I expect the rollout may have a glitch or two, as dioceses and their lawyers continue to figure it out.

But what are people saying about it all? Analysis is trickling in from all over.

Preparing for the ‘Big Transfer’

My father grew up as an extremely poor child in South Boston (aka “Southie”). He basically lost his father at the age of 8 to heart disease. He was one of those boys who literally wore holes in his shoes and lined them with newspaper in order to keep pebbles out. He also experienced having to move from apartment to apartment in the middle of the night when they didn’t have enough money to pay the rent. And although he was one of the top students in his class, he was forced to leave school in the eighth grade in order to earn money to help support his family.

These experiences affected him deeply for the rest of his life. When he had children, he vowed that they would never experience that level of poverty and insecurity.


Counting Prayer: We pray, and the mind, the intention, the awareness, all become rooted in that moment

A few years ago a friendly evangelical woman who had become a regular reader of my blog sent me an email.

She wrote that after several years of reading blogs and social media, she no longer thought of Catholics as idolaters. She was even becoming convinced that Mary, as the mother of the Christ, had a substantial and essential role to play in the salvation of the world, and is thus due appropriate homage. “I still can never approve of the Rosary, though,” she wrote, “because Jesus condemned it in Matthew 6:7, when he said, ‘… use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do.’”
She wondered how we Catholics can ignore that point of Scripture.


Made to Complement

Our culture today often fights the distinctions between men and women, between the masculine head and the feminine heart of the family.

Contrary to certain secular opinions, husbands and wives and mothers and fathers cannot easily fulfill one another’s roles. As Christians, we know that the God-designed differences between men and women contribute to the enrichment of family life, as Pope Francis has been addressing in his general audiences.

God created men and women to complement one another, which works to our advantage in our spiritual lives and families. If married couples seek to capitalize on this complementarity, their efforts to be better spouses to each other and better spiritual leaders for their children work together with their God-given, natural inclinations, allowing them to better spiritually lead and love their families toward heaven.


Ten Things That Make A Catholic Marriage Valid

Catholic marriage?

No. Frankly, you can’t Do it your Way.

I am constantly amazed at how many Catholics think it is perfectly okay to be plan a wedding service however they want it.

I’m sorry. If you are a Catholic you can’t do it your way. You have to do it the church’s way.

If you’re Catholic here are ten things that are required for your wedding to be valid:


“Instruct the Ignorant”: The First Spiritual Work of Mercy

In preparation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has repeatedly stressed the importance of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In the Bull of Indiction he wrote, “It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.”

He brought the subject up again in a letter to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. He gave his appeal even more weight by confirming the promise of a Jubilee Indulgence for performing such merciful acts:


So Many Voices… Who Should I Listen To?

There are so many voices in our day claiming to speak to us with authority, it is no wonder that so many are confused and misled. These voices come to us through our news and talk-show media, our entertainment industry, our government, our schools and universities, our religion and even from our friends and associates. And even from the Blogosphere!

Sometimes, the cacophony is so overwhelming, I find myself simply wanting to press some magical mute button to shut it all out. But the reality is that the messages conveyed are often planted in our minds without a second thought and the consequences to us can be dire if we do not discern what is true from what is false.


Is Hell Eternal?

Let me say right up front that I hope hell is not eternal.

I hope God finds a way to offer his forgiveness even to those who are in hell.

In fact, I’ll jump on the speculative theological bandwagon and propose that

God’s mercy–since it is everlasting–will extend even to hell.


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