September 12, 2021 The 24th Sunday Ordinary time (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Listen!
Let’s eavesdrop in on the conversation in today’s gospel. “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt 16: 17). Bravo, Peter! As the gospel continues, Jesus began again to teach them about His upcoming death and resurrection. Peter, the now self-appointed “smartest kid in the class”, takes Jesus aside to set Him straight. Jesus rebukes him, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s” (Mark 8:33b). After being at the apex with his confession of Jesus, why did Peter then crash and burn? It all has to do with listening. In making his confession, Peter listens to God, in the second part he does not. Sensing everyone’s anxiety, Jesus explains that to follow Him everyone must take up their own cross. In other words: listen. Thy will be done is paramount in anyone’s walk with God. Faith requires that we listen to God when He doesn’t make sense. But then, why have faith if you can’t test it?
Isaiah 50 contains Messianic prophesies pointing to the crucifixion. In them, Jesus shows that He is listening and will go the distance to fulfill the Father’s will. This is no easy thing. The Bible is full of prophesies of Christ as the suffering servant. Jesus knows them all and is acutely aware of what’s coming. In light of this, you have to wonder how He was even able to sleep at night. I’m sure that it was not unusual for Him to bolt up out of bed in a cold sweat, pale and sucking air from yet another nightmare. Still, He goes to the cross because God is His Father. Their intimate relationship gives Jesus a confident faith. His Father loves Him and can keep Him. Jesus spent many a night in prayer because He knows that the God that He listens to is also listening to Him (Psalm 116). The apostle Paul puts it this way: For this reason, I suffer all these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:12). He trusts in the promises of glory and triumph that await Him beyond His ordeal. Because of this, despite the nightmares of His sufferings, Jesus can dream “The Impossible Dream”. In following His example so can we.
There is another lesson in listening to God that is picked up in James 2: 14-18. Because we are so busy with our own lives, we often miss it. I call it: God put you in my way. It is a line from the movie, The Four Feathers, not the old one, the 2002 version. In the movie an Englishman (Heath Ledger) is rescued and aided in his quest to save his friends by a black mystic. When asked why he is helping, the mystic says, “I have no choice. God put you in my way.” Personal piety is important part of listening to God in the Christian life, but our faith becomes genuine in the world when we help someone in need. Let’s look and listen for opportunities from God for the people that He puts in our way and besides just saying, “I’ll pray for you”; make them a pot roast too.
To conclude: God loves you as you are but loves you too much to leave you as you are. Crosses are required! He wants you to carry the image of Jesus in your life. God will guide you by His still small voice, by scripture, or when He puts someone in your way. Go with it! He that began a good work in you will finish it (Philippians 1:6). But you need to listen.