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Sunday, 9/16/2018, Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Serve the One Who Serves Us

First Reading Commentary: Isaiah 50:4c-9a

Have you ever heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me?” If you have, you must be my age or close to it. That is Isaiah’s message to us today. In fact, Isaiah tells us that physical attacks cannot hurt us either. Not when we serve the One who serves us—God.

Whether we are paid to serve, forced to serve or volunteer to serve; when we think of serving, we think of service to each other. We think of God as our creator, our judge and our salvation; but we do not normally think of God as our servant. But He is and if we serve Him, He will always be at our side to take care of us. God does not get paid and He cannot be forced into anything. God volunteers to serve us because of His love for us.

If you look the word, “serve” up in the dictionary and think of God when you do, it is easy to see that God does indeed serve us. God has been working for us from the moment of our creation. He ministers to us, delivers us from evil with His Word and salvation, is sufficient for us and has prepared the feast for us at His banquet table in heaven. All of these things are consistent with the definition of the word “serve.”

But the definition of “serve” also says this: “To work for and obey.” That is where we come in to do our part. We obey God when we honor God, give Him praise and show our gratitude by serving Him. God does not pay us to serve Him, although He does reward us by allowing us into His Kingdom of Heaven. God does not force us to serve Him either. God wants us to volunteer our service to Him with the same love that He has for us when He serves us.

Isaiah’s prophecy is telling us that we serve God when we hear His Word, accept it and stay loyal to it without turning away. We also serve God when we forgive others for their transgressions against us in the same way that God forgives us. Little did Isaiah know at the time of this prophecy that the Son would come and give us the Lord’s Prayer.

When we serve God, there is nothing that anyone can do to hurt us in any way. They cannot shame us or dispute our right or prove us wrong because God is with us and nothing can hurt or defeat Him—not even death.

Faith into Action

Second Reading Commentary: James 2:14-18

Isaiah tells us to serve the one who serves us and today, James tells us exactly how to do that—Put faith into action.

We can say that we believe in God and that we put our faith in God a zillion times in life. But if we do not put our faith into action, it is worthless because it is not from the heart and that is where God looks. It is those things which live in the bottom of our hearts that God will use as evidence when He judges us. Nothing else matters.

We can go to church, say our prayers, openly give praise and glory and do all of the things that make us look righteous and holy. And then, the very first time that someone offends us and apologizes and we fail to forgive; the faith that we claim to have is worthless. We only prove it to be a lie.

If we see someone in need and we fail to offer them assistance when we have the means to do so, we only prove the faith that we claim to have as nothing more than a lie. Anytime that we do anything to hurt another person in any way—no matter how trivial—we prove the faith that we claim to have to be nothing more than a lie.

When our faith is real and from the heart, we will forgive, help those in need and we will not do anything deliberately that will hurt another person. In this way, we show our love for God. Therefore, the long and short of today’s message from James is: Obey the two Greatest Commandments. Love God and love neighbor.

Know Me and Carry Your Cross

Gospel Commentary: Mark 8:27-35

Today’s gospel is Mark’s account of Peter’s Confession about Jesus, the First Prediction of the Passion and the Conditions of Discipleship. All of this happens in the same incident and it is also at this same time that Jesus appoints Peter as the Rock and institutes the Sacrament of Confession for the first time although Matthew is the only gospel writer to account for that so I will not address it today. Refer to Matthew16:13-28 and Luke 9:18-27

Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They answered, “John the Baptist; others Elijah; still others, one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Even the disciples were confused as to who Jesus was. Peter was the first among them to acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. In doing so, Peter demonstrated his faith. Peter said, “You are the Christ.” Jesus told them not to tell anyone. Why?

One reason is because of Peter’s reaction to what Jesus told them next. Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected…and be killed and rise after three days.”  Peter could not see Jesus having to suffer and die. So, Peter took Jesus aside to rebuke Him. Then Jesus turned to all of the disciples and said, “Get behind me Satin” and told them that they were thinking like humans. Notice that Jesus turned and spoke to all of the disciples because He knew that none of them could accept the fact that He would suffer and die.

In speaking, Peter demonstrated that he had enough faith to know who Jesus was and that he believed in Jesus. But he rebuked Jesus because, the devil had weakened Peter’s faith just enough for Peter to doubt that Jesus would die and come back to life in three days. Had the devil not been able to weaken Peter’s faith, Peter would have been happy to hear the news from Jesus because he would have known that Jesus rising from the dead would be a sign of His divinity to all of mankind.

The devil will use anything and everything against us. He will take good things and turn them around against us. Here, the devil used Peter’s faith and love for Jesus against him. The problem is; that if Christ did not suffer and die, He could not have resurrected Himself to make ready our path to salvation. But Peter and the other disciples did not know this and should have just relied on their faith.

Furthermore, if the devil could use Peter's love for Jesus against him and lead Peter into this doubt, then Peter could eventually be led into not believing Jesus at all. That is exactly what the devil was attempting to do to Peter and all of the other disciples.

That is how the devil works. We open the door with the slightest bit of doubt or the least little sin and the devil does all he can to destroy our faith completely. That is why Jesus said, “Get behind me Satin.”

Not wanting to see someone we love, suffer and die is a normal reaction and a good thing. But we have to be vigilant because if the devil could use Peter's love for Jesus against him and lead Peter into doubt, then he will do the same to us and he does.

Remember, this takes place immediately after Jesus had made Peter the Rock of the Church. The devil wasted no time attacking the Rock of the New Covenant and Christ’s Church. When you read this in the gospel, it sounds like Jesus is chastising the very person who He just made the Rock of the Church. Indeed, Jesus was cautioning Peter and the other disciples against thinking in human terms when it comes to faith. But instead of chastising the disciples, Jesus protected all of them by talking directly to the evil one saying, “Get behind me Satin.”

Every time that we say, “In the name of Jesus, get behind me Satin," Jesus protects us. All of us are constantly under attack by the devil and we can use all of the protection that we can get. That is why rarely, does a day go by that I don’t say, "Get behind me Satin" at least once.

I have said before that the devil is the reason why there are so many different religions in the world. The devil is the reason why there is so much religious persecution in the world. I am a very strong believer that all religion is good and all of us, no matter what our religion may be, should take a hard look at why Jesus said, "Get behind me Satin" to Peter and the disciples.

But let’s go back to Jesus asking the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus wanted to hear what the disciples had to say. He wanted to know if they were listening to the rumors about Him or if they were paying attention to Him. Peter with all of his faults, was the first to admit that he was paying attention to Jesus. That is exactly what Jesus wants from all of us.

But Peter and the disciples had a lesson to learn. Jesus gave the lesson by saying this: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

What does it mean to deny ourselves? It simply means that we accept the fact that we are not the center of existence. Life is not about us. It is about the One who gave life to us. Therefore, God is the center of existence. Our desire to be with God in the Kingdom is what should be our biggest priority. We get to the Kingdom by following the Son and therefore, He should be most important in our lives.

We must deny ourselves in order to have Christ as the most important thing in our lives. The trials and tribulations of daily life and the sufferings of bad times make up our crosses. In order to follow Christ, we have to endure the hardship of carrying our cross just as He carried a cross for us. Jesus carried a cross to prepare our place in heaven and we must carry a cross to get there.

In this gospel, Jesus is not talking about becoming martyrs. Jesus is reminding us once again that nothing of this world nor: everything of this world put together worth losing our reward of eternal life in heaven.

I think that the question that Jesus asked in Matthew 16:26, says it all. Jesus asked, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” Nothing on earth, tangible or intangible, is worth more than our eternal life in heaven. That is why we have to deny ourselves and carry our cross in order to follow Christ.

Reading 1          Isaiah 50:4c-9a

The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.
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, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.
He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm          Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9

R. (9) I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. or: R. Alleluia.

I love the LORD because he has heard my voice in supplication, Because he has inclined his ear to me the day I called.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. or: R. Alleluia.

The cords of death encompassed me; the snares of the netherworld seized upon me; I fell into distress and sorrow, And I called upon the name of the LORD, “O LORD, save my life!”
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. or: R. Alleluia.

Gracious is the LORD and just; yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD keeps the little ones; I was brought low, and he saved me.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. or: R. Alleluia.

For he has freed my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living. or: R. Alleluia.

Reading 2          James 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, ”
but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?
So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.”
Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

Gospel          Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
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.”

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Paragraph 767 "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church."174 Then "the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun."175 As the "convocation" of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.176

The Holy Spirit came to Mary and the Apostles as tongues of fire.

Saint of the Day

Pope St. Cornelius
(d. 253)

Do not rebell against the Word don't be afraid because nothing can harm you.

James wrote, "Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works."

Alleluia Galatians 6:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Peter was the first to admit that Jesus is the Christ.

The devil used the love of Peter and the disciples for Jesus against them and caused them to doubt that Jesus would suffer, die and be raised in three days.

In order to have eternal life in heaven, we must give up this life on earth and everything in it.

Saints of the Week

St. Robert Bellarmine
(10/4/1542 – 9/17/1621)
Patron Saint of:
Catechists & Catechumens

St. Joseph Cupertino
(6/17/1603 – 9/18/1663)
Patron Saint of: Air Travelers, Astronauts & Pilots

St Januarius
(c. 300)
Patron Saint of:
Blood Banks & Naples

Sts. Andrew Kim Gaegon &
Paul Chong & Companions

(8/21/1821 – 9/16/1846;
d. between 1839 – 1867)

St. Matthew the Apostle
(c. 1st Century)
Patron Saint of:
Accountants, Actors,
Bankers, Bookkeepers,
Tax collectors & Taxi Drivers

St. Lorenzo Ruiz
& Companions

(1600 – 9/29/ or 30/1637)

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