Sunday, September 16, 2018
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9
Responsorial: Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9
2nd Reading: James 2:14-18
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
Get behind me, Satan. (Mark 8:33)
Try to imagine the look on Peter’s face when Jesus rebuked him. He must have gone from a beaming smile to a forlorn frown in a split second.
Did Peter love Jesus when he said, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29)? Yes! Did he love Jesus when he urged him to avoid the cross? Yes! Peter loved Jesus with his whole heart on both occasions, even though the first response came from God, and the second one didn’t.
If it was hard for the great St. Peter to recognize the difference between godly truth and ungodly temptation, what hope could there possibly be for us? Sure, there are times when it’s not hard to spot the influence of the devil. But what about those times when we feel we are being sincere and honest, but we’re still wrong?
What about those times when we say something out of a good motivation, but it ends up being the wrong thing at the wrong time?
The first thing we need to do is admit that we don’t always get it right. We’re going to make mistakes and hurt people, even when we have good intentions. There will even be times, humbling though they may be, when our good intentions end up serving devilish purposes. Praise God for his mercy and patience!
Second, we need to know that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us how to live. St. Paul tells us that no matter how inscrutable the wisdom of God may be, “we have the mind of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 2:16). This means we really can learn how to discern spiritual things.
Over time, Peter learned how to discern God’s voice. He learned how to sort through his intentions and be a clearer instrument of God’s grace. We can too. Just keep telling yourself, “I have the mind of Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit is my guide.” With this little statement of faith, you can develop the gift of discernment.
“Lord, show me your ways so that I may discern your will.”
Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion:
- The first reading opens with Isaiah offering a prophetic foreshadowing of the passion of Jesus Christ: The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. 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 reading also provides insights into the mind of a man of faith, who in the midst of his suffering is still able to proclaim: The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. He is near who upholds my right.
- How would you describe the ways Jesus has fulfilled the opening prophetic words of the reading?
- What do you think is the meaning of the words that follow Isaiah’s prophecy?
- When you experience difficulties and suffering, what role does your faith in Jesus Christ play in how you respond? What steps can you take to allow your faith to have a greater impact on your response?
- The Responsorial Psalm begins with these words: I love the LORD because he has heard my voice in supplication, because he has inclined his ear to me the day I called. It goes on to speak of how gracious and merciful and caring the Lord is in the midst of great suffering: The cords of death encompassed me; the snares of the netherworld seized upon me; I fell into distress and sorrow, and I called upon the name of the LORD, “O LORD, save my life!” Gracious is the LORD and just; yes, our God is merciful. The LORD keeps the little ones; I was brought low, and he saved me.
- In what ways are the words of this Psalm, like the first reading, those of hope and trust in the Lord, even in the midst of distress and sorrow?
- What were some times in your own life when the Lord heard my voice in supplication and inclined his ear to me the day I called?
- In the second reading, St. James tells us that faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. He goes on to say, Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith from my works.
- Why do you think “works” are important as a demonstration and evidence of our faith?
- If you were put on trial to prove you are a Christian from your works, would there be enough evidence for a conviction? Why or why not?
- In the Gospel, Jesus speaks these words to his disciples and the crowd (and to us): Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 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 (Mark 8:35).
- What do you think these words mean?
- How would you describe how they apply to you?
- The meditation is a reflection on St. Peter’s actions described in the Gospel reading: “Did Peter love Jesus when he said, ‘You are the Christ’ (Mark 8:29)? Yes! Did he love Jesus when he urged him to avoid the cross? Yes! Peter loved Jesus with his whole heart on both occasions, even though the first response came from God, and the second one didn’t. If it was hard for the great St. Peter to recognize the difference between godly truth and ungodly temptation, what hope could there possibly be for us?” The meditation ends with these words: “Over time, Peter learned how to discern God’s voice. He learned how to sort through his intentions and be a clearer instrument of God’s grace. We can too. Just keep telling yourself, ‘I have the mind of Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit is my guide.’ With this little statement of faith, you can develop the gift of discernment.”
- What do you think Peter was unable to “recognize the difference between godly truth and ungodly temptation”?
- How would you describe some of the reasons that each of us can also fail to “recognize the difference between godly truth and ungodly temptation”?
- How important do you think it is to “Just keep telling yourself, ‘I have the mind of Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit is my guide’”? Do you believe that “With this little statement of faith, you can develop the gift of discernment”? Why or why not?
Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord to continually reveal his ways to you and to give you the gift of discernment. Use the prayer below from the end of the meditation as the starting point.
“Lord, show me your ways so that I may discern your will.”