Homily Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2018
St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish
There are many occasions that we receive all the things we pray for or ask for. There are other occasions during which many good things just keep “pouring and pouring” in our lives: we get more than we ask for. There are few times, we feel bad things hit and slam our lives.
First Reading Isaiah 50.5-9
In the First Reading of today (Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time), the prophet Isaiah says, he sometimes feels he, too, receives unfortunates blows that “hit or slam” his life from everywhere:
“I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.” (Isaiah 50:6)
Isaiah might have experienced physical attacks: blows, strikes, insults and scornful spitting. Isaiah might have experienced other forms of attack: emotional, psychological, spiritual, social, moral, cultural, etc. In all this, Isaiah tries to find ways to get out of these attacks:
“The Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced” (Isaiah 50:7)
Isaiah believes that there is an end to both bad things and misfortunes, for sure. He also believes that good things live forever:
“he who vindicates me is near.
“Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together. (Isaiah 50:8)
Two questions you can ask yourself is that: how do you put things in perspective when challenges hit you from unexpected sources in life? Who do you ultimately rely on in order to sort out solutions during difficult times? One of the psalmists says, “I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9)
Second Reading: James 2.14-18
In the second reading of today, St. James encourages us to discuss the good side of the things we have or possess. He uses the sentence: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters …” (James 2:14). Although James is specifically talking about the advantage of having faith with works versus faith without works, we can fill in the blanks with regard to other aspects of our lives:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters (if you have faith but destructive works?),
What good is it, my brothers and sisters (if you have no faith but great works?)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters (if you have mediocre faith but amazing works?)
What good is it, my brothers and sisters (if you have wavering faith but fabulous works?).
At the end of the day, James is encouraging everyone to have both faith and works that weigh the same in order to carry out our lives and relationships:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if you say you have faith but do not have works?
Can faith save you?
If brothers or sisters are without clothing and lack daily food,
and one of you says to them,
“Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,”
and yet you do not supply their bodily needs,
what is the good of that?
So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But someone will say,
“You have faith and I have works.”
Show me your faith apart from your works,
and I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:14-18)
St Anselm once said, “faith seeks understanding.” Today, St James says, faith seeks good works to be complete and balanced. In light of St Anselm and St. James, we can also say:
Faith seeks works of charity and kindness,
Good works seek strong faith,
Faith seeks works for common good,
Works for common good seek authentic faith,
Faith seeks concrete and tangible good works.
How will you inspire these endeavours and commitments?
Gospel: Mark 8.27-35
In the Gospel of today, St. Mark tells how Jesus reveals his mission in Caesarea Philippi amidst many misconceptions and wrong perceptions of his followers and audiences. Sometimes, we, too, go through situations and emotions that look like we are in the biblical Caesarea Philippi, where we want to discover who Jesus truly is so that we discover ourselves better:
“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?” (Mark 8:27)
In discovering who Jesus is, do our faith, works, and challenges lead us to allow Jesus to take us aside to advise us, or we rather take Jesus aside to advise him? Peter took Jesus aside and what happened? There was a twist:
“And Peter took Jesus 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.” (Mark 8:32-33)
Jesus 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.” (Mark 8:34-34)
What are your faith and good works? What is your faith seeking to be better? What are your works seeking to be complete? How do you take the advice of the Lord when he speaks to you in the silent moments alone? Do you allow the Lord to take you aside to speak to you? Where do you draw your strength during challenging times?