24th sunday in ordinary time
12th september 2021
Year B – Psalter Week 4
Peter’s profession of faith is the turning point in Mark’s gospel. Up until this point the question has been concerned with who Jesus is. The miracles that Jesus has performed, such as the healing of the deaf man with the speech impediment in last week’s gospel, point to a deeper spiritual reality. As the deaf are made to hear and the dumb are made to speak, so now, the spiritually deaf are made to hear the gospel, and the spiritually dumb are made to profess their faith in Jesus. So today, Peter is enlightened by God’s grace and professes Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Christ, or the ‘anointed one.’
Immediately after Peter’s profession the gospel of Mark becomes concerned with what this means for Jesus, what type of Messiah he will be. Many expected an earthly warrior king, but Jesus comes as the suffering servant prophesied by Isaiah in our first reading. He immediately ‘began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again.’ Peter, as we hear, does not understand this and begins to remonstrate with him. It is as if Peter wants to lead Jesus along a path he thinks Jesus should go. But Jesus’ words to Peter could not be firmer: ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’
Any of us can easily fall into this trap. How many times, for example, have we complained to God when things have not gone as we thought they ought to in our own limited human thinking? How many times have we sought to go ahead of Jesus, directing our own lives as we want and expecting him to follow and bless us, rather than allowing him to guide us in our decisions and to allow him to take the lead in our lives? How many times have we complained to God when we have encountered physical hardships, or spiritual temptations, which have intruded into what we think should be comfortable Christian lives? How many times have we sided with the secular world and thought that the Church should abandon or ease some of the difficult teachings of Jesus, particularly today concerning marriage or human sexuality, for example?
In order to understand the gospel message we have to take the following words of Jesus to heart: ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’ Being a disciple of Jesus means letting him lead the way and allowing our own limited human understanding to be transformed into his way of understanding. St. Paul puts it this way: ‘Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.’
This does not mean, however, that following Jesus means being miserable. Rather, it means trusting and coming to know that he is the Good Shepherd who leads us to fresh pastures and bestows upon us the fullness of true life and joy. As the Lord explains elsewhere, however, ‘it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life’ and so we must accept that the Christian life, while bringing peace and joy, will also involve hardships and difficulties, and sharing with Jesus in his passion. So if our journey of faith seems very difficult at times, take heart! They are not times in which the Lord abandons us. Rather, they are times where he draws us closer to himself on the road to life.
 Romans 12:2.
 Cf. John 10:10; 17:13.
 Matthew 7:14.
I offered my back to those who struck me.
Psalm 114:1-6. 8-9
I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living.
If good works do not go with faith, it is quite dead.
You are the Christ. The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously.
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, says the Lord; no one can come to the Father except through me.