YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 24TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: THE TRUE JESUS
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Mk 8:27-35
Message # 333: “My Birth”
1. The Marian Message
a) The message of the Blessed Mother is on the occasion of the feast of her birthday. She was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anna, without any stain of sin. She is the Immaculate Conception. And now, she is born into the world. Her birth meant three things for us.
b) “My birth is the cause for your joy” (letter b). We invoke Mary in the Litany as the Cause of our Joy. Heaven leaps for joy. The heavenly Father looks on her with joy being the masterpiece of His creation, so pure and immaculately beautiful. The Eternal Word joyfully expects His incarnation in her virginal womb. The Holy Spirit already communicates to her soul with love. For us, therefore, her birth is the assurance of the coming of the Savior. She, indeed, is the cause of our joy.
c) “My birth is also cause for your hope” (letter c). Sin has long reigned in the world. But the birth of Mary gives us hope that sin is about to be conquered because the Savior is sure to come. She, who will bring the Savior, is now born, and the moment of defeat of Evil is now at hand.
d) “My birth is above all cause for your consolation” (letter d). She knows how much sufferings we are undergoing due to sin and the reign of evil. But her birth reminds us of her motherly presence in our midst: “how much comfort you find in the sure knowledge that your heavenly Mother is always at your side, to share in your sufferings, to strengthen your trust and to be a consolation to your many sorrows.”
e) Mary is called the Morning Star. This star rises and shines brightest just before the break of dawn. It, therefore, heralds the coming of the sun at dawn. Rightly so that we honor Mary with the title Morning Star for her coming was an announcement of the dawn of salvation in Jesus Christ her Son. When the sun comes, the morning star is engulfed in its light. When Jesus came, the true light of the world, Mary is fully penetrated by His light, that the Book of Revelation calls her the Woman Clothed with the Sun. She is wrapped in the fullness of the light and glory of God because of her perfect unity with the Incarnate Word. In her, the glory of God shines in perfect radiance. Her birth, therefore, is a cause for our joy, hope and consolation, simply because she brings Jesus to the world, and she is always with Jesus.
2. The Sunday Gospel
a. “Who do people say that I am?” It looks like Jesus is conducting a survey. He asked this question, not because he does not know what people think about him. Rather, he simply wanted his disciples to realize that he is not just one of the prophets of the past, no matter how great they were. That is why, he immediately asked the next question: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, not out of his own knowledge but from the heavenly Father’s inspiration: “You are the Messiah.” Jesus allowed this truth to be known by his disciples, his co-workers in evangelization. But it was not yet the right time to make it known to all people. That is why, he invariably cautioned them: “He warned them not to tell anyone about him.”
b. The Messiah is the Chosen One of God, sent into the world to save mankind. Jesus was very careful in revealing this truth to people because he was aware of the real danger of people misunderstanding his true mission. They had the common notion that the Messiah is just a political messiah who will lead the Jewish people in recovering their sovereignty, which they lost to the Roman domination. They believe that the Messiah is the victorious lord in this world. That is why when he started talking about his forthcoming sufferings and death on the cross, Peter “took him aside and began to rebuke him.” With all the sincerest intentions, Peter wanted to shield Jesus from harm and death. What he did not realize was that he was blocking the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan. So Jesus called him “Satan”, the Adversary, for trying to impede and go against God’s plan. He was trying to keep Jesus away from the cross. In this way, he has become the enemy of God.
c. The salvation of mankind takes place through the sacrifice of the Messiah on the cross. He is the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. This is too strange for any man to grasp. But it makes great sense if we look at the story of salvation. Man’s innocence and original justice were lost because of the pride and disobedience of Adam. Basically, it was selfishness on the part of man that destroyed his dignity as image and likeness of God. In order to redeem man, the antidote has to be given: the total self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. It is the perfect picture of selflessness and love: “There is no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends.” While sin is fueled by selfishness, salvation is worked out for us by Jesus through his self-sacrificing love.
d. The work of salvation is an on-going event. Jesus inaugurated it and worked it out by his death on the cross and victory of his resurrection. But the work goes on. Before his ascension into heaven, he left us with a command: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news of salvation.” So in the Gospel, Jesus invites his disciples to a life of love and sacrifice: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Any disciple of Jesus can be effective in the work of salvation if he lives a life of self-sacrifice and love, the antidote to sin, selfishness and death.
3. Points for Reflection
a. The greatest truth of all is that Jesus is God. The only way we can know God is through Jesus, for he himself is God. He said: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” And that is why the greatest error of all is to deny Jesus as God. The atheists, who claim there is no God, are terribly mistaken, and so are all who do not recognize Jesus as God. It is just so sad to see more and more people being deceived by the devil, and they live in the greatest error of denying the divinity of Jesus. The phenomenal growth of the sect Iglesia ni Kristo of Manalo, shows us how great the number of people having been deceived by this false religion. And there are many false religions and false preachers all over, all of them instruments of the devil in spreading lies, deceptions and confusion in the world. What a pity for Catholics who fall into their hands. That is why it is very important to protect and strengthen our faith.
b. The Protestants would always stand by their conviction that faith alone suffices. They believe that faith alone in Jesus will save them. (Martin Luther manipulated the Bible, and in the German translation, he inserted the word “alone”.) But the Apostle St. James in the second reading this Sunday is very clear: Faith without good works is a dead faith. True faith is not just a proclamation of a set of beliefs. Rather, it is the incarnation of what is believed: we have to live what we believe in. To follow Jesus, the Messiah, is not just to say Amen to his teachings, but also to live them. His core teaching is love, and that entails self-sacrifice and dedicated service to the needy, “for whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me.”
c. The first law of nature is self-preservation. It is the natural human tendency to avoid pain and suffering. The devil is aware of this, and he capitalizes on this human tendency. The most effective weapon of the devil in luring people to damnation is money. Many have come to believe that it is the answer to all our problems in the world. It promises comfort and luxury, an easy life and an end to sufferings. But as experience tells us, it is actually the cause of much of our problems. When people consider money as the highest good, this is when problems arise. People want to get hold of as much money as possible, and employ all sorts of means, by hook or by crook. And they end up becoming slaves of materialism and greed. It is like the proverbial case of jumping from the frying pan to the fire. In their desire to avoid pain and sufferings, people run after money in order to have an easy and comfortable life. In the end, they find themselves in a more miserable condition.
d. Christianity does not teach nor encourage masochism. Anybody who finds enjoyment in suffering is a masochist. Definitely, Jesus did not enjoy being nailed to the cross. He willingly suffered for us because it was necessary for our salvation. It is a suffering, which is not masochism, nor being helpless and powerless. It is an active and voluntary suffering for the sake of the beloved. This is called self-sacrifice, the highest and most sublime expression of love. Human experience is replete with similar examples. The sufferings of a mother who nurses and cares for her baby; the father who works hard for his family; the athlete who denies himself so many things in training; a student who spends hours of study; a public servant who denies himself in order to be available for others; the stranger who voluntarily places himself in harm’s way just to save lives during an accident or calamity. These are all proofs of what Jesus said in the Gospel: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Life becomes meaningful and precious when it is bathed by the sweat and blood of our sacrifice and sufferings.
e. “When the going gets easy, be careful: you might be going downhill.” This quotation should serve as a constant warning to us. Looking for the easy life is so attractive and enticing, but very dangerous. Jesus warned us that the road to damnation is wide and smooth; many take this road. But the road to salvation is narrow and difficult; it is the way of the cross, and only few take this road. Those who wanted to be rich through the easy way become thieves and plunderers; they end up either in jail or in the cemetery, and worse, their souls end up in hell. Jesus said that: “What profit would a man show if he gains the whole world and loses himself in the process?”
f. Christian means being like Christ. We have to follow Jesus all the way. This means following him even to the way of the cross. We cannot be Christian without the cross. Unfortunately, some of us are not only unlike Christ: they should instead be called “Satan”. The Adversary has no other desire but to take us away from the cross. He knows that the cross is the only way to salvation. So he tries to present it as repulsive as possible, and to present comfort, luxury and pleasure as most attractive as possible. There are people who are more like Satan than anything else. We have to be very careful, for we can also be one of them. Anyone who is running away from the cross and tells others to do so is called Satan. Anyone who invites others to sin, to a life of pleasure and luxury, and to keep them away from the cross is called Satan.
Recite the Hail Holy Queen. And sing Happy Birthday to Mama Mary.
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.:
1.Paano mo maipapahayag na si Hesus ang iyong Panginoon?
2. Ano ang sakripisyo mo ngayon sa buhay? Kamalasan ba ito o biyaya?
3. Alin ang pipiliin mo: ang maging mayaman pero malayo sa Diyos? O ang maging simple lang ang buhay pero malapit sa Diyos?