24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“The Son of Man must suffer greatly . . . be rejected . . . and killed and rise after three days.”

This week’s readings are yet another example of how Jesus Christ fulfills the Old Testament prophesies.  In our First Reading, we hear a prophecy written by Isaiah.  The Prophet Isaiah wrote long before Jesus was born, but it sounds as if the Prophet were describing Christ’s scourging and crowning with thorns: “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 Jews of Isaiah’s day did not understand that these words applied to the Messiah.  They had other ideas of what the Savior should be.  They wanted a king who would deliver the people from their political oppressors.  Jesus Himself said that His Kingdom is not of this world.  Jesus came to set us free: free from sin and death.  He accomplished our redemption by dying, as foretold by the Prophets of the Old Testament.  The Jews of Isaiah’s time did not understand this.  The Jews of Jesus’ time did not understand; Jesus’ own disciples and Apostles did not understand that the Savior had to suffer and to die.  Saint Peter, the Rock upon which Christ said that He would build His Church, misunderstood when Jesus foretold His own death and Saint Peter rebuked the Lord.

That the Messiah would come and die a most cruel death on a cross was not on anyone’s radar.  The people wanted a political king; they got a suffering servant.  It goes against human wisdom, but Jesus did not come to conquer kingdoms, He came to conquer hearts.  He willingly suffered and died for you personally.  Yes, Jesus died for all of us, but as God He knows each and every one of us intimately.  He created us.  He loves you and He died to save you.  He willingly took all that He suffered upon Himself to save you from sin and to show you how much God love you.  Even if you were the only person that He created, He would have suffered just as willingly in order to save you.

And what does He ask of us in return?  He asks us to take up our cross and follow Him.  He asks that we love Him above everything in this world.  He asks that we love others as ourselves.  God made us for Himself.  We were made for communion: communion with God and with others.  It is only by loving God above all things that we will find true happiness, lasting peace and real joy.  God commands us to do what will make us happy.  Following His Commandments is not meant to be a burden; the Commandments were given to show us how to be happy; they show us how to live as we were made to live.  We need to put our faith into practice.  By living out our faith, we will come closer to the Lord and we will find real happiness.

The second Reading today, from the Letter of Saint James, puts it like this: faith without works is dead.  Our faith needs to affect the way we live.  Can we really claim to be Christians if we make no effort to follow the most basic Commandments?  I am not saying that we have to be perfect.  Scripture tells us that even the just man falls seven times a day.  We do need to make an effort to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.

Lord Jesus, help us to put the faith, which we profess, into practice in our daily lives.  Help us to love You, Who loved us even unto death.  Help us to follow you faithfully in all that we do.  Amen.

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