In the Gospel of Mark (8:27-35) we hear the Lord questioning the disciples about who people say that He is. He’s also questioning the disciples about who they believe He is. When Peter is asked directly, he responds to our Lord, “You are the Christ.” A strong statement of faith and belief from Peter. And yet, when our Lord teaches them about what he must endure in the near future, that he will suffer greatly and will be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and rise after three days, Peter’s response may be a bit surprising to us. It certainly wasn’t what our Lord wanted to hear. Our Lord says to Peter, “Get behind me Satan. You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”
There are several points here that we must consider. First is a test of faith. Our Lord is questioning the faith of those who have heard him teach. He is seeking a clear vision of the faith of those whom He has come to save. Are they believers? Is their faith strong? Is their belief true? Jesus then turns to his disciples to assess their faith. Is the faith of those closest to him strong? Strong enough to build His Church upon after he has left this earth? His rebuke of Peter is sharp and strong. It sends a clear message to the disciples. The message is to believe! To trust in God! Placing one’s trust in anything else is not of God but from Satan.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we too must have that same faith that our Lord called the disciples too. That strong desire to live our lives in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. To live as he did with all faith and trust in God our Father. When our Lord says to the disciples, “whoever whishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” that is exactly what our Lord is saying to us as well. We must remember that Jesus did not promise us that our life with Him would be easy or that our life in the Church would be a cake walk! But in comparison to His passion, death and resurrection, we might come to the realization, that in fact our life as true and faithful Catholics is not at all that difficult. That to live our lives in His teachings as true and faithful Catholics given the promise of eternal life with Him is in fact a small price to pay. In fact we should see it as a blessing rather than a sacrifice or labor.
In the second reading from St. James (2:14-18) we are challenged by the words, “what good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works.” Our challenge is for our faith to be obvious to others. In other words, faith is more than words. It’s our actions and how we treat others. We must have a transparent faith. A faith that is easily visible to all we know and all we meet. Those we meet should be able to see a reflection of Christ in us!
Further in the reading we hear, “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.” Our works/actions must always be an example of our faith. Actions based in other motives such as anger or anything else are not actions from God and should be abandoned. We must always seek to act in sincere charity and in God’s will. Let all we do, all we are, and all we hope to be always be rooted in the Love of God.
I pray our Lord bless each of you this day and always. Have a very blessed week!
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Father Mark Groeger is the Parish Administrator of Prince of Peace Church in Northern Cambria, PA.