Care For Our Brothers and Sisters

09-12-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This weekend at our Masses, the theme of each of the three readings is all about good discipleship. Our first reading, a passage from the Prophet Isaiah addresses the theme of the "Suffering Servant". We know to interpret the servant as Israel because the pain caused in the servant is a direct result of his faith. He is insulted because of his faith but note that he never wavers or steps back. His life was just because he set his face against these bad people with a face "like flint."

In our second reading the writer James continues the theme of discipleship. He writes that it is not enough to state our beliefs and faith, we must do more. Good intentions and talking are never enough. If people find their neighbors hungry and without enough clothing, it is not enough to wish them well, but we need to act on our wishes for them. Saint James always wants us to pray, but sometimes he knows that prayers alone are not enough. We must act on our own prayers or else God's work will not be done.

We find in the Gospel of Mark a description of a disciple by Jesus. In this passage Jesus asked his disciples who people said he was. They answer that some thought he was John the Baptist. Some others thought he was Elijah or some other prophet because they believed that a prophet would come back to prepare the way for the Messiah. However, suddenly it became clear to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. We also learn that before Peter could act on this, Jesus told him not to tell anyone else. It appears that Jesus wanted to be certain that Peter fully understood what that meant before he went about announcing Jesus as the Messiah.

Until now Peter thought that the Messiah was someone who would become great and powerful. This powerful Messiah would conquer the enemies of God's people and rebuild the City of Jerusalem. He thought that Jews throughout the world would once again gather and be reunited in their new wonderful city. When Jesus explained messiahship in the context of suffering and death, this really floored and confused St. Peter. Peter pushed back from these words and ideas so that Jesus saw Satan's actions in Peter's thoughts. Jesus strongly corrected Peter and began to explain to him what a disciple was. Jesus told him that a disciple needed to be ready to give up the pleasures of this immediate life and say "yes" to God. A disciple and follower of Jesus had to be ready to face what Jesus faced.

Jesus must have often wondered if the disciples understood what he was saying and teaching during the last three years. His major test for this was his question "Who do you say that I am?" Did they understand that God has been revealed to us through Jesus and also through Him we come to understand God's great and unconditional love? We, in fact, learn how to return that love to God though Jesus. What is also clear is that the love of God shines directly through us, the disciples. We can share that love in spoken word and in prayer, but more importantly we must also show this love in our actions and deeds.

We know that it is not always easy to share the love of God and so we are reminded to pick up the cross of Jesus and die in him. There clearly are people who are difficult to love in our lives, or difficult circumstances that make it hard to do something that shows our love, but there are no excuses. True discipleship means that we do something to care for our brothers and sisters.