(24th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 50:5-9; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35)
If you have already seen today’s readings, we have a quiz question for you. How many parts of the body can you remember that are mentioned in the first reading and the Psalm? We will return to this later.
In the Gospel, after listening to the rumors circulating about him, Jesus asks his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers for all, “You are the Christ,” i.e., the Anointed One, the Messiah. This is a pivotal moment in their life. Jesus now has to prepare them for what lies ahead. He is about to begin his final journey to Jerusalem, and he tells them to rethink their messianic ideas.
Peter is shocked! His reaction, misguided though it is, is understandable. Words like “suffer… be rejected… be killed” do not belong in the same sentence with “Messiah.” Jesus might as well have added: “I will give my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pluck my beard; my face I will not shield from buffets and spitting,” to paraphrase Isaiah.
Mary at La Salette provides her tearful answer to Jesus’ question. He is her Son, who is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah. Her large crucifix, however, accompanied by hammer and pincers, shows him not in the majesty of power but in the beaten, bruised image of redeeming love.
Today’s text from Isaiah invites us to revise our understanding of suffering and humiliation. No matter what we face as Christians, we too can say, “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.”
Returning to the quiz question that opened this reflection, the answer is six: ear, back, cheeks, face, eyes and feet. In the Bible, parts of the body are often a poetic way of saying “I,” e.g., “my eyes have seen.”
St. James tells his readers to take a new look at the meaning of faith. It is internal and external. “I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works,” he writes. A poem attributed to St. Teresa of Avila puts it this way: “Christ has no body but yours… Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.” Let us use them with courageous faith, that through our works others may come to know Christ and rejoice in his boundless mercy.
Fr. René Butler, M.S.
and Wayne Vanasse