for Sunday, September 13, 2015
I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works! The Letter of James is so clear that our faith must demonstrate itself in our lives. If our faith remains only an inward thought that never touches our actions, then it is not true faith but an illusion. This thought from the second reading today helps us understand the other two readings as well.
The first reading is from the Prophet Isaiah. Here we encounter these words: 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. The Lord God is my help. Isaiah suffered for what he believed and what he said. Yet he does not turn away from that suffering. So often many of us find ourselves doubting God and His love for us when our life becomes really difficult. Perhaps we even wonder if we have taken a wrong path.
There is so much of Christian tradition that seems to think that if we believe and behave ourselves properly, then surely our lives will prosper. Yet, when we read the Scriptures, the testimony there is just the opposite. God tests those who love Him. God allows the good to suffer. God does not make our lives easier but rather we find that following Him makes our lives more difficult—until our faith is deep enough to accept the suffering. Once we learn to accept the suffering of following Jesus as our Lord, then life takes on a whole different meaning for us and we are able to carry the Cross with His help.
The Gospel today, from Saint Mark, states this in a very straightforward way: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. Thus, when we find Christian life difficult and with enormous suffering, we should never be surprised. If we look around our world today, Christians are suffering everywhere. Perhaps in the so called developed nations, there is less physical suffering. On the other hand, Christianity seems to be dying in many of the developed nations because Christian do not want to accept suffering.
Many Christian have come to accept a secular gospel: God is nice; look out for yourself; seek power, pleasure and money; there is nothing after this life. The Gospel today is so different from such a secular gospel. Jesus wants us to deny ourselves and love all others, especially our enemies. To do this, we must learn how to suffer for the Lord and with Him for the salvation of our world. Let us walk in the way of the Lord!
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Isaiah 50.5-9
Second Reading: James 2.14-18
Gospel: Mark 8.27-35
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: