The Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 16, 2018
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Sunday Reading Meditations
the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
One time when I went to confession, the priest gave me three Our Fathers as penance. He told me to look at the crucifix and pray one Our Father looking at Jesus’ body. During the second Our Father, I was to look at Jesus’ feet and during the third at Jesus’ hands.
Contemplation of the crucifix made me understand anew how great God’s love is. The Cross is the greatest work of the Lord. In Jesus’ body, feet and hands pierced by a spear and nails, we can find the greatest manifestation of mercy. When we contemplate the Cross, we find an immense source of serenity.
“Faith, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:18). Today’s readings talk about faith and works.
In the Gospel, Jesus asked the apostles about who they thought He was. It was Peter who answered: “You are the Christ” (Mk 8:29). Peter’s answer is a profession of faith. Peter recognized Jesus as his God and Savior. When Jesus explained that he had to suffer, be rejected and killed to achieve his glory, Peter rebuked him. Peter accepted the faith but he did not accept the works. He wanted to bypass the Cross, go directly to the glory. We can easily understand Peter. There is a natural rebellion against the Cross. So many times, we would prefer to bypass what seems incompatible with our happiness. The circumstances of life seem to be against us. Then we dream of a perfect world, maybe a paradisiacal island where everything is perfect, a place to escape from where we are. Sometimes we think that our happiness depends on changing our circumstances. If we changed our jobs, friends, homes, families or spouses, then we would be happy.
Last week, I went to the dentist. During the treatment, with all the paraphernalia in my mouth, unable to answer what the doctor was asking me, I looked at the wall and I saw a framed prayer, which says: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The “works” that Saint James mentions in the second reading are our participation in Jesus’ Cross. The works are our own crosses, things that we cannot change.
The world says that the Cross is antagonistic to happiness. Jesus teaches us the opposite: his Cross is the path to happiness, to glory. The happiness that Jesus promises us it is not an easy happiness. It requires our faithfulness to the path. Even when our feelings would lead us in other directions, we stay firm on the Lord’s path because we know that it is the only way to find what our hearts really need.
“The faith and the works” (cf. Jas 2:14–18). I always thought that the “works” were things to do. However, “works” that follow “faith” are an acceptance of Jesus’ work—the Cross. It is not a matter of doing something but of accepting what Christ does for me. Jesus’ love reaches me through my particular circumstances. To accept what is given to me is a sign of adulthood, maturity in faith. Jesus is real and He is present for me in what is real—not in my dreams.
Let us ask for the grace to be able to live our faith with works. Let us ask for the grace of accepting Jesus’ love for us as an immense fount of serenity. Amen.
Sunday Reading Meditations