13 September 2015: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Is 50:5-9a Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9 Jas 2:14-18 Mk 8:27-35

Discipleship: a way of seeing

In Ordinary time, the Lectionary presents RCIA participants and all the believing community with stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. This week we continue reading about discipleship.

The first reading is from Isaiah. Scripture scholars identify the author as an anonymous poet (called “Second Isaiah” or “Deutero-Isaiah”) who prophesied toward the end of the Babylonian exile (about 550-539 BC). Second Isaiah wrote four “Servant Songs” about Israel’s suffering servant, a man called to lead the nations but who was abused and condemned; in the end he is rewarded for his sufferings. Early Christians saw the suffering servant in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In today’s third servant song the suffering servant “gives his back to those who beat me” and his face “to buffets and spitting”–we see the messiah’s passion foreshadowed.

The second reading continues the letter of James. In today’s reading, the author criticizes believing community members who distinguish between faith and works. Some in the ekklesia (possibly Gnostics) see belief in Jesus as sufficient for salvation. The author asks: What good is faith without the works that make faith real? Without works, faith is a dead thing. Others in the ekklesia see faith and works as two different gifts (“you have faith and I have works”). The author corrects them: faith and works are two sides of the same coin. He says, “you can’t show me your faith alone, but I can show you works that come from my faith.”

In Mark’s gospel we hear Jesus’ teaching about discipleship. Last week Jesus healed the deaf-mute, but his disciples still can’t see who Jesus is. This week, Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say I am?” The disciples give positive, but non-committal,answers. Jesus asks them directly: “Who do you say I am?” Peter, the spokesman, responds: “You are the anointed one, the messiah.” Jesus then teaches the disciples about the messiah’s mission: rejection, suffering, death, resurrection. (See the first reading’s “suffering servant.”) Peter rebukes (literally “censures”) Jesus for Jesus’ description of messiahship. Jesus rebukes Peter right back: “Go away, Satan. You’re seeing things like a human, not the way God sees!” Jesus addresses the disciples and the crowds on discipleship: you must leave your family and friends (“deny oneself”) and walk with Jesus and his followers. Everyone has a choice: follow the world’s path to have a worldly life–and lose your life in the end; or give away your life in service to Jesus’ message–and save your life.

As the RCIA process resumes its weekly sessions this week, the readings provide catechumens and candidates–and all believing community members–with stark words about what Jesus expects of his disciples: See things from God’s point of view. Give up your comfortable, clannish ways. Walk with me on my path. Our baptismal profession of faith puts us on the disciples’ path. Our Baptism and Confirmation anointings make us other Christs and other messiahs. Whom do we say Jesus is? How do we see ourselves as disciples? Have we learned to see with God’s eyes? Can others see our faith and discipleship in our works?

—Terence Sherlock

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