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Scripture Reflections - Sept. 16
Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Isaiah 50:5-9a
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35

Archives Msgr Paul E. Whitmore
Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore

There are many meanings to the phrase “comfort zone.” For some people, their comfort zone is sitting in an easy chair with a good book. As a teenager, my mother would constantly pry me out of my “comfort zone” with a gentle reminder that I was not a “star boarder” in our home.

Jesus applied a stronger “shock treatment” than that to the comfort zone of his apostles in this week’s Gospel. After he challenged them to confess that He was more than just a human teacher, one with divine authority, He announced to them the sobering news that He would soon suffer a humiliating passion and death at the hands of His enemies. Ironically, it was Peter who had just publicly proclaimed that He was the Son of God, who immediately rebuked Jesus for such defeatist talk. And Jesus swiftly retorted, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

Do we modern-day disciples do any better at accepting a Messiah who calls himself a “suffering servant?” How good are we at joining our own sufferings with Jesus’ redeeming passion and death? Perhaps it’s something small, like a cut finger, or a toothache or a minor ear infection. But it also might be something much more serious — a heart problem, or cancer.

It takes faith to unite our sufferings with the Passion of Jesus, just as it takes faith for the less painful actions of love and service in the community of our Church.

It’s all part of the faith plus good works that St. James speaks about in today’s second reading. He insists that faith without loving works is dead. For centuries, battles have raged about “faith alone” or “faith and good works” being necessary for salvation.

Of course, we cannot pull ourselves into heaven without the grace of God, but faith without actions that flow from it is useless and hollow.

We need to get out of our comfort zone from time to time. We’re not star boarders in this world. We’re loving followers of Jesus who must be prepared to go all the way with Him to Calvary. In these days of crisis in the Church, we are all undergoing a Calvary.

Pray the divisions and diabolic forces may be overcome. Pray especially for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

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