One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

September 17, 2006

For the Twenty-Fourth Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 8:27-35

By this time in the Gospel the disciples have already seen Jesus cast out armies of devils, raise the dead to life, multiply a few loaves of bread on two occasions into enough to feed several thousand.
They have seen him walk on water and heal crowds of sick persons.
Today, he pokes them with two questions.
Who do PEOPLE say that I am?

Who do YOU say that I am?

They start to give a few answers.
The answer he finally accepts comes from Peter.
You are the Christ—
the Messiah—
the Anointed One.

This must be a great moment for the disciples.
Jesus is finally accepting from them the title of the wonder-working Messiah of God.
What a shock, then, as the Lord immediately turns the whole thing violently upside down on top of their heads!
Just when they have come to a moment of triumph with him, he begins to teach them that the Messiah “must suffer greatly” at the hands of the national and religious authorities, and he must “be killed.”
Peter rebukes Jesus for saying such things.
The Lord turns on Peter with violent words
Get behind me—
get out of my sight—
you Satan!

The Son of Man—
the Messiah—
must suffer greatly and be killed.

Many of the ancient and modern heresies in the history of Christianity are attempts to squirm past or squirm away from the notion that God has become a REAL MAN and now MUST suffer.
Even Saint Peter the First Pope squirmed.
Christ is true man and true God.
If he must suffer greatly and be killed, what does that tell us about God, and what does it tell us about man?
Before he was born a man of flesh and blood, God could not suffer.
Now that God is a man, he says that he must suffer greatly and be killed.
Why is this true?
HOW can it be true?
The search for answers can begin with the revelation that God is Love.
The LOVE-THAT-GOD-IS pours itself out forever and completely, without becoming empty and needing to be refilled.
GOD-WHO-IS-LOVE gives forever and completely, without ever becoming less or needing to have anything in return.
It is quite different with us human beings.
We have needs of body, mind and spirit— needs that must be met to some degree, or else injury and death do result.
Christ is God, giving away everything that he is and has.
At the same time, he is a man whose human needs must be met to some degree.
Precisely because he is THE-MAN-WHO-GIVES-HIMSELF-AWAY, holding nothing back for himself and taking nothing back for himself, he must suffer greatly and must die.
Christ’s suffering unto death shows that he truly is God.
His suffering unto death shows WHAT True Love is.
It shows HOW True Love is.
It shows WHO True Love is.
Today in his Gospel, True Love in Person tells us that if we choose to follow him in the way of love, we, too, must carry a cross and “suffer much”.
Without suffering, at least in some form of self-denial, there is no true love in us.
Christ’s suffering unto death shows that when a man accepts suffering freely and willingly, he becomes a SIGN, an INSTRUMENT and a PRESENCE of God who is Love.
That is our true human destiny, our true human vocation: Love.
Not false self-fulfillment, not the self-centered and self-enclosed satisfaction of our needs!
Our true human vocation and destiny is love: the giving away of ourselves, even to the point of deliberate self-denial, so that the borders of our sinful self-centeredness begin to be broken open by love and grace for the sake of true and divine freedom.
That is what the Lord teaches us in his Gospel today.
Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake—
will find his life—
will save it.

Christ our God chose to suffer and die.
We, when we suffer, have an opportunity to be Godlike.
We are free to Love.
To refuse to suffer when Love requires it is to be a Satan, and Christ will tell us to get out of his sight.
However, suffering itself is not our vocation.
It is not our destiny.
Our vocation is freedom and love.
Our final destiny is freedom and love.
Until freedom and love reach their full birth with the Return of Christ, suffering will remain the most challenging and the most powerful opportunity to exercise our freedom, and to submit to the ways of Love.
In his Gospel, Christ tells us he will return…
… with his Father’s glory
accompanied by his angels.
When he does
he will repay each man
according to his conduct…

… his conduct either as a lover or as a Satan.
If we wish to be with the Lord,
we must deny our very selves,
take up our crosses,
and begin to follow in his footsteps.
Whoever would save his life
will lose it,
but whoever loses his life
for the Lord’s sake
will find it—
save it.
There is, then, for those who follow Christ, a meaning, a purpose and hope in suffering.
Here and now in his Eucharist, Christ the Son of God— Love Incarnate whom we follow— takes up his cross, breaks and pours himself out and gives himself away for us and for our salvation.
In this, he gives us life, love and true freedom.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God!

That God Be Glorified in All


Anonymous Bob Farrell said...

In reading this in class last week, I told my 7th graders St. Peter is the "Babe Ruth" of the apostles - "HOME RUN"...YAY!...strike out!!!...booo. An analogy we'll get to see numerous times in the Gospels and Acts.

Good thing to keep in mind as we strike out often during life.

10:47 AM  

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