September 9, 2018

O. T. XXIV (B) September 16 Sunday ( Is 50:5-9; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35)

One page Summary of OT XXIV [B] (Sept 16) Sunday Homily 

Introduction: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection. Finally, it outlines the three conditions of Christian discipleship, namely, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.

Scripture lessons: Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in Isaiah’s Servant Songs. Hence, a large portion of the Third Song of the Suffering Servant is presented as the first reading today. Like the servant described in today’s first reading, Jesus’ life was one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 116), the Psalmist invites us to turn to the Lord for help amidst the trials of this world.  It is in God that we will find deliverance from trouble and relief from our afflictions.  (Ps 116). Today’s second reading, taken from the Letter of James to the Church, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James explains how our Faith in Jesus, the Messiah, should help us to alleviate the sufferings of others by our works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. In the Gospel, in response to Peter’s profession of Faith in him as God’s Messiah and Savior, Jesus foretells for the first of three times his passion, death and Resurrection. Today’s Gospel consists of two sections: 1) the Messianic confession of Peter, who acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.” and 2) Jesus’ prediction of his passion, death and Resurrection, followed by his clear teaching on the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

Life Messages: 1) Jesus wants to become a living, present reality for us, loving us, forgiving us, helping us, transforming our lives and outlook and building a personal relationship with us. The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior needs to become a living, personal experience for each Christian drawing each of us to loving response. The relationship deepens and grows as we listen to Jesus through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, speak to him in our daily, personal and family prayers, offer him our lives on the altar in the Holy Mass and see reconciliation with him, asking his forgiveness for our sins every night and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the Eucharistic celebration today, we are celebrating and experiencing in our lives the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior.  2) We need to surrender our life to Jesus whom we experience as our Lord and Savior: The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus Whose love we have experienced by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The final step is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, good and bad, realizing that God’s love shapes every event of our lives.

OT XXIV [B] (Sept 16) Is 50:5-9a; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35 

# 1: Baby powder and Christian powder:  Yakov Smirnoff (https://youtu.be/5GK8ewRec7c) is a comedian from Russia. When he first came to the United States from Russia he was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in American grocery stores. He says, “On my first shopping trip with my friend, I saw milk powder; you just add hot water, and you get milk. Then I saw orange powder; you just add cold water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, ‘What a country, you add water to a tin of powder and get a baby!’” Smirnoff was joking on a “Comedy Show.” But some televangelists, preach such instant Christian transformation, leading to eternal salvation. According to this belief, when someone surrenders his or her life to Christ and accepts Him as his or her personal God and Savior and confesses his or her sins to Him there is an immediate, substantive, in-depth, miraculous change in habits, attitudes, and character and he or she becomes a born-again Christian eligible for eternal salvation. Unfortunately, there is no such Christian powder and disciples of Jesus Christ are not instantly born. They are slowly raised through many trials, suffering, and temptations. They are saved by their faithful and lifelong cooperation with the grace of God given for doing good and avoiding evil and for obeying God’s commandments. In today’s Gospel, Jesus explains what his disciples should do: “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” [Adapted from James Emery White, Rethinking the Church, (Baker, 1997), p. 55-57.]

# 2: Shakespeare and Jesus. It was the 19th century British essayist, Charles Lamb, who snatched the 17th century playwright William Shakespeare from his undeserved obscurity, returning him to the limelight of fame. Charles Lamb was once involved in a discussion on the question of who the greatest literary genius of all time had been. Two names finally emerged: William Shakespeare and Jesus of Nazareth.  Lamb put an end to the debate when he said: “I’ll tell you the difference between these two men.  If Shakespeare walked into this room right now, we would all rise to greet him, but if Christ came in, we would all fall down and worship.” There is the essential difference between the Man from Nazareth and all the other great people you can think of. Jesus Christ is God, and all others, no matter what their deeds, are but fools strutting on the stage for a brief time and then exiting. Today’s Gospel describes who Jesus really is and gives us the unique conditions for Christian discipleship.

3:  “Who do Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam say that I am?” The first two groups claim to be Christian, and Islam speaks about Christ.  But all of them have a confused Christology. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly called the Mormons, incorporates the Lord’s name in its title, but its beliefs about Jesus are fatally flawed. A basic compendium of the Mormon gospel, entitled Mormon Doctrine, was written by apostle Bruce Redd McConkie, an influential Mormon theologian.  According to McConkie, Mormons believe that “Lucifer, the son of the morning, is our elder brother, and the brother of Jesus.” The Journal of Discourses, a 26-volume Mormon publication presenting public sermons by many early Mormon leaders, includes such statements as this: “Jesus, our elder brother was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our father in Heaven.” The same volumes assert, “Jesus was married at Cana of Galilee and had many wives … he also had many children.” From these writings, it is clear that the Mormons fail the test when it comes to answering Jesus Christ’s question, “Who do you say I am?” (v. 29). Ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Who do you say Jesus is?” The Jehovah’s Witness publication, New Heavens and New Earth, declares by way of response, “Michael the Archangel is no other than the only begotten Son of God, now Jesus Christ.”  Consider the religion of Islam. Ask the Muslim who Jesus is and the answer we get from official publications is “Jesus was no more than a mortal whom Allah favored and made an example to the Israelites. They are unbelievers who say God is Messiah, Mary’s son” (Sura 43:59, Quran). Until people see Jesus as Peter did, as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” they miss the mark

Introduction: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and our Lord and Savior. It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection. Finally, it outlines the three conditions of Christian discipleship, namely, denying oneself, taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.  Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in Isaiah’s Servant Songs. Hence, a large portion of the Third Song of the Suffering Servant is presented as the first reading today, while in the Gospel, Jesus foretells his passion, death and Resurrection for the first time, in response to Peter’s profession of Faith in him as God’s Messiah and Savior. Like the servant described in today’s first reading, Jesus’ life was one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 116), the Psalmist invites us to turn to the Lord for help amidst the trials of this world.  It is in God that we will find deliverance from trouble and relief from our afflictions.   Today’s second reading, taken from the Letter of James to the Church, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James explains how our Faith in Jesus, the Messiah, should help us to alleviate suffering in others by our works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. Today’s Gospel consists of two sections: 1) the Messianic confession of Peter, who acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ (Messiah,) the Son of the living God.” and 2) Jesus’ prediction of his Passion, death and Resurrection, followed by his clear teaching on the three conditions of Christian discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

First reading: Isaiah 50:4c-9a, explained: In the middle section of the book of the prophet Isaiah, in chapters 40-55, there are four short passages which scholars have called the Songs of the Suffering Servant. In the original author’s mind, the servant was probably a figure for the people of Israel, or for a faithful remnant within the people. In their original context, the songs were probably composed to help Israel see itself in the role of the servant. Through degradation and suffering, Israel could become for the rest of the world God’s message of liberation and salvation. But Jesus saw aspects of his own life and mission foreshadowed in the Servant Songs. Hence, this section of the third song is presented as the first reading today, while in the Gospel, Jesus foretells for the first time his passion, death and Resurrection, after Peter has professed his Faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Savior. Jesus identified himself and his mission with the sorrowful figure of humiliation and suffering, the Lord’s servant. Like the servant described in today’s first reading, Jesus’ life was one of radical obedience and conformity to God’s will. Thus, the Servant passage provides background for the revelation of Jesus as the suffering Messiah.

Second Reading: James 2:14-18, explained: Today’s reading, taken from the Letter of James to the Church, reminds us that suffering is not only something to be accepted but also something to be alleviated. James tells us that our Faith in Jesus the Messiah should be expressed in alleviating others’ suffering through works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual. In other words, professing Faith in the Divinity of Christ and his role as our Redeemer is useless, unless we practice that Faith in genuine deeds of love, mercy, forgiveness and humble service as Jesus lived and demonstrated these qualities. As Christians, we are obliged to meet the material needs of poor persons and to alleviate their sufferings. We should respond concretely to the needs and sufferings of our fellow humans. Otherwise, our Faith is all talk and no action. “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James is not refuting the Pauline doctrine of salvation by Faith but warns us that a lifeless or an unlived faith has no power to save (v. 14) us from judgment.

Gospel exegesis: The context: This Sunday we begin a series of seven Sunday Gospel readings from Mark’s account of the journey of Jesus and his disciples from northern Galilee to Jerusalem. Along the way Jesus gave instructions about his identity and what it meant to follow him (discipleship). Today’s Gospel, relating the first of Jesus’ three prophecies of his passion, death and Resurrection, consists of two sections: The Messianic confession of Peter and Jesus’ prediction of his Passion, death and Resurrection, followed by his clear teaching on discipleship.

Two pertinent questions in a pagan pilgrimage center: In Matthew and Mark, Jesus asked two questions about his identity. The incident occurred at Caesarea Philippi, presently called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee. This city was founded by King Philip, the son of Herod the Great, to perpetuate his own memory and to honor the Roman emperor Caesar. It was situated on a beautiful terrace about 1150 feet above sea level on the southwest slope of Mount Hermon overlooking the Jordan valley. The city was a great pilgrimage center for pagans because it held temples for the Syrian gods Bal and Pan, the Roman God Zeus and a marble temple for the emperor Caesar. Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he really was, then his entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless. Hence, he decided to ask a question in two parts.

The first question:What is the public opinion?” Their answer was, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” John the Baptist was so great a figure that many Jews, and Herod their king, thought that John’s spirit had entered the body of Jesus. Elijah, the greatest of the prophets was believed to be the forerunner of the Messiah.  [“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes”(Mal 4:5).] It was believed that, before the people went into exile, Jeremiah had taken the Ark of the Covenant and the altar of incense out of the Temple, and hidden them away in a lonely cave on Mount Nebo; before the coming of the Messiah, he would return and produce them, and the glory of God would come to the people again (2Macc 2:1-12).  In 2Esdr 2:18 (an apocryphal work), the promise of God is: “For thy help I will send my servants Isaiah and Jeremiah.”  The phrase, “one of the prophets,”   suggested that Jesus had a ministry like that of the former prophets. When the people identified Jesus with Elijah and with Jeremiah they were, according to their lights, paying him a great compliment and setting him in a high place, for Jeremiah and Elijah were the expected forerunners of the Anointed One of God. When they arrived, the Kingdom would be very near indeed.

The second question: “What is your personal opinion?” For the first time in their relationship, Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declared publicly: “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God.” Peter was the first apostle to recognize Jesus publicly as the Anointed One (also translated Messiah or Christ).  Christ is the Greek word for the Hebrew word Messiah. To say that Jesus was the Christ, the anointed one of God was to say that He was the Immanuel, the Salvation of God — God who became Man to save sinners!  It is evident that Jesus was well pleased with Peter’s answer. Jesus first pronounced a blessing upon Peter, the only disciple in the Gospels to receive a personal blessing. “Blessed are you, Simon son of John!” Next, Jesus confirmed Peter’s insight as a special revelation from God. “No mere man has revealed this to you, but my Heavenly Father.” However, Jesus was quick to explain to the disciples that he was not a political Messiah who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom after ousting the Romans.  Instead, he was the Messiah who would redeem mankind by his suffering, death and Resurrection. Like the Suffering Servant in the first reading, Jesus accepted suffering out of fidelity toward the One Whom He called Father and as part of his Messianic mission. Jesus’ example provides a challenge for us all to accept the mystery of the cross when our turn comes to follow the Suffering Servant and Suffering Messiah.

No suffering, no death, please: The Jewish religious tradition did include a certain amount of suffering and rejection on the part of its religious leaders.  One finds this in several references to Moses and the prophets (Ex 16:2; 17:2-4; Jer 11:18-19; 20:7-10; Mt 23:37).  The concept of suffering or self-sacrifice as having a saving effect was also present in the Jewish tradition (Ex 32:32; Is 53:5, 10, 12).  But it received explicit expression in Christian Messianism, not only in the Gospels, but also in the Acts of the Apostles (8:32), and in the epistles (Rom 5:6-8; Gal 3:13; 1 Pt 2:24-25). Jesus rebuked Peter when Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from such a course.  For Jesus, this was yet another temptation in the guise of a close friend’s counsel.  It tested Jesus’ commitment to the mission which his Heavenly Father had entrusted to him. “Jesus rejected the term “Messiah” if it meant a political, nationalistic leader. Jesus consistently rejected that program as a diabolical attempt to divert him from his God-given mission.” (Reginald Fuller).

The three conditions for Christian discipleship: To counter the opposition expressed by Peter and to emphasize the fact that he was not the political, conquering Messiah of Jewish expectations who would bring perfect peace and justice, put an end to all suffering and death, and provide perfect joy and happiness in this world, Jesus turned to the wider audience of the crowd gathered with his disciples at Caesarea Philippi and emphatically declared the stringent conditions to be met by his disciples. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Christian discipleship demands honesty of a disciple in order for him to practice self-control (“to offer our bodies as a willing sacrifice to God”), willingness to suffer, and readiness to follow Jesus by obeying his commandment of love. A) Denying self:  This means, with God’s grace, evicting selfish thoughts, evil desires and tendencies from our heart and filling it with God. In addition, also with God’s grace, it means cleansing ourselves of all evil habits, enthroning God in our hearts and sharing Him with others. B) Carrying of the cross with Jesus: First, it means gracefully accepting that suffering without bitterness, as a part of our lives. Second, it means that we may not, in our suffering, pass on any bitterness to those around us. Third, it means that we must accept some other deaths before our physical death, that we are invited to let some parts of ourselves die. Fourth, Fourth, it means that we must wait for the resurrection and the eternal reward for our suffering. Christian life of service is carrying one’s cross in the footsteps of Jesus. Our sufferings become the cross of Jesus with its saving power when we suffer with him by dying to our self-centeredness through serving others selflessly, enduring physical or mental pain and illness without complaint, and offering these sufferings to God in reparation for sin. We also offer penitential practices to God for the same intentions for ourselves and for the world. C) Following Jesus: This means that, as followers of Christ, we should live our lives according to the word of God, by obeying what is commanded by Jesus. Jesus’ predictions about Christian suffering would have had particular meaning for Mark’s audience when they experienced their fulfillment in both the horrors of the Jewish war against Rome and the persecution under Nero, when Christians were used as torches to light Nero’s garden.

Life Messages: #1: We need to ask ourselves the question what Jesus means to us. Founder of a religion? Revolutionary Jewish reformer? One of the great teachers? Son of God and personal Savior? This can perhaps be broken down into other questions:  “How do I really see Jesus? Is Jesus a living experience for me, walking with me, loving me, forgiving me, helping me and transforming my life and outlook? What difference does Jesus make in my life?  Have I really given my life to him?  Are there areas where I have excluded Him, where my life is not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant? Who do we say that Jesus is through our daily life? Who do we say that Jesus is when we are in the presence of those who don’t know him, those who aren’t interested in him? What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives?  We are gathered here today in the name of Jesus. We have not come together to celebrate a continuing memorial for a merely good man who died long ago. We are here to celebrate the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Messiah, our Lord and personal Savior in this Eucharistic celebration in which we encounter directly the Living God.

2) We need to experience Jesus as our Lord and Savior and surrender our life to him. The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Savior needs to become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This is made possible, with the grace of God, by our listening to him through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by our talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by our offering to him our lives on the altar in the Holy Mass and by our being forgiven by and reconciled with him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus through rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. The final step is to praise and thank God in all the events of our lives, good and bad, realizing that God’s love shapes every event of our lives.

# 3:  We should be ready to take up our crosses and follow Jesus. Do we have enough F aith to offer up a genuine sacrifice for Christ’s sake? Can a Church in today’s self-centered culture ask its people to sacrifice something for the sake of the Gospel? Jesus’ challenge to all would-be disciples requires more than a “feel-good” spirituality. A true disciple asks, “Am I willing to sacrifice something for the God Who loves me?”  What made it possible for first-century Christians to choose a martyr’s death? What has kept generations of Christians from losing Faith and falling apart when confronted by the violence and hatred of this world? Can we offer even the day-to-day sacrifices asked by Jesus when they demand things we don’t want to do?  Can we sacrifice some of our time in order to visit Him in a homeless shelter or soup kitchen? Can we sacrifice our job security and refuse to “go along” with a policy that is unjust? Can we sacrifice our need to be in control and let Christ do with us what he will? Can we refuse to let our children watch television programs filled with sex and violence?

Joke of the Week

# 1: “Who do you say that I am?” On Sunday morning a man showed up at Church with both of his ears terribly blistered. So, his pastor asked, “What happened to you Jim?”
“I was lying on the couch watching a ball game on TV while my wife was ironing nearby. I was totally engrossed in the game when she went out, leaving the iron near the phone. The phone rang, and keeping my eyes on the TV, I grabbed the hot iron and put it to my ear.”
“How dreadful,” gasped the pastor. “But how did the other ear get burned?”
“Well, you see, I’d no sooner hung up, the guy called back!” He just didn’t get it. Lots of folks never get it and never understand how life really works, even at the simplest levels. That’s why Jesus is pressing his followers — and us with a challenging question in today’s Gospel: “Who do you say that I am?” (Msgr. Dennis Clarke).

2) “I see millions of stars:” The story is told of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson on a camping trip. As they lay sleeping one night, Holmes woke Watson and said, “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson said, “I see millions of stars.” Holmes asked, “And what does that tell you?” Watson replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. And what does it tell you?” Holmes answered, “Someone stole our tent.” Some people are great at speculative knowledge but when it comes to its implication for practical living they score zero. Such is Peter in today’s Gospel. L/18

Websites of the week:

 

29- Additional anecdotes:

1) Who do you say I am? Jeremy Bowen could not be more wrong, and Bono could not be more right! Bowen, the presenter of a British Broadcasting Corporation documentary on Jesus Christ, said, “The important thing is not what Jesus was or what he wasn’t – the important thing is what people believe him to have been. A massive world-wide religion, numbering more than two billion people follows his memory – that’s pretty remarkable, 2,000 years on.” (Alex Webb, “Looking for the Historical Jesus,” BBC News Online, March 26, 2001.) On the opposite end of the spectrum, Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, asked if he believes the claim of Jesus’ Divinity is farfetched, replied with this statement: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually, Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: “No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher. Don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: ‘I’m the Messiah.’ I’m saying: ‘I am God incarnate.’ So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who he said he was – the Messiah – or a complete nutcase. [Michka Assayas, Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas (New York: Riverhead, 2005), p. 108.] Bowen could not be more wrong, and Bono could not be more right! Who Jesus is and what he did is the foundation of Christian Faith.

2) Larry King to interview Jesus Christ: Barbara Ann Walters, the first female evening news anchor on The ABC Evening News and ABC commentator on news specials, once asked the CNN talk show host Larry King, “If you could interview anyone in history, who would it be?” King replied with unguarded honesty: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Her next question was, “If you could ask him one question, what would it be?” After a brief pause, he responded, “I think I would like to ask him, ‘Were you truly virgin born?’ because if he was, that would change everything.” Larry King was correct.  If the accounts of the virgin birth and the bodily Resurrection of Jesus are true, then they change everything. It means that He was more than a man; consequently, His words are absolutely authoritative. It means that what He said about life and death, God and the devil, sin and salvation, and heaven and hell is true. Today’s Gospel describes the great profession of faith made by Peter recognizing Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, and the Son of the Living God.

3)”She thinks I’m real! A waitress at a restaurant was taking orders from a couple and their young son. The father and mother gave their luncheon selection and gratuitous instructions as to what was to be substituted for what, and which dressing changed to what sauce. When she finally turned to the boy, he began his order with a kind of fearful desperation. “I want a hot dog-” he started. And both parents barked at once, “No hot dog!” The mother went on. “Bring him the Lyonnais potatoes and the beef, both vegetables, a hard roll and . . .” The waitress wasn’t even listening. She said evenly to the youngster, “What do you want on your hotdog?” He flashed an amazed smile, “Ketchup, lots of ketchup, and-and bring a glass of milk.” “Coming up,” she said as she turned from the table, leaving behind her the stunned silence of utter parental dismay. The boy watched her go. Then he turned to his father and mother and with astonished elation said, “YOU KNOW WHAT? She thinks I’m real! She thinks I’m real!” [The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990).] When we answer this question like Peter, when we accept Jesus as the Messiah and Savior of our lives, then all that he taught, all that he promised, all that he preached becomes real in us.

4) Vox populi, vox Dei!”: “Jesus asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets’ ” (vv. 27b-28). Vox populi, vox Dei means “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” It is the foundational philosophy that stands behind every system of democracy that has ever been established. But, is it true? Are the people, always right? Indeed, we can ask, “Are the people, ever right?” Consider, for example, these confused determinations by people some consider “experts”: a) IBM: Thomas Watson, president of IBM, said when IBM unveiled its first computer, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Or, this: “We went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, built with some of your parts, what do you think about funding us? Or, pay our salary and we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So, we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t even finished college yet.'” That was Steve Jobs speaking about attempts to get Atari and Hewlett-Packard interested in a computer model later called Apple! Imagine, computer giants like Atari and Hewlett-Packard missed it! b) Telephone: In 1876, an internal memo circulated among Western Union executives. It originated with the head of that company and read in part, “The so-called ‘telephone’ device is a fad. It has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value.”             c) FedEx: Fred Smith submitted a term paper proposing the reliable overnight delivery of packages using a fleet of airplanes. His Yale business professor returned that term paper with a grade of ‘C’ on the top and this comment below: “This concept is interesting and well-written, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” Fred Smith left Yale and founded FedEx! d) Mrs. Fields’ Cookies:  Debbi Fields pitched an investment banker to help her find funding for a start-up mall-based cookie store called Mrs. Fields’ Cookies. The banker replied, “A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you are planning to make.” e) The Beatles: A Liverpool music group called The Beatles auditioned for a Decca Records’ agent in 1962. He told them, “We don’t like your sound. Frankly, guitar music is on the way out.”          There are many more examples to demonstrate that the voice of the people – even the voice of the leaders among the people – is not guaranteed to be right or reliable. The majority is often wrong.

5) A menu of sorts:  In today’s Scripture lesson of a question and answer, we’re given a menu of sorts. We’re given a menu and then we’re to make a choice which reminds us of two restaurant orders. a)  A woman went into a restaurant and ordered the breakfast special, “I want my pancakes well done,” she said. “You need to cook them all the way through and golden brown on both sides. Use the light syrup because the regular syrup is too sweet. Make the bacon crisp and thin, not oily or soggy and put it on a separate plate. The eggs must be over-easy, not broken or runny.” “And would you like butter or margarine?” asked the waitress. The woman answered, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; I’m not that picky.” (Parables, Etc.). b) A guest in an expensive seaside-hotel breakfast room called room service one morning and placed a breakfast order: “I want two boiled eggs, one of them so undercooked it’s runny, and the other so overcooked, it’s about as easy to eat as rubber; also grilled bacon that has been left on the plate to get cold; burnt toast that crumbles away as soon as you touch it with a knife; butter straight from the deep-freeze so that it’s impossible to spread; and a pot of very weak coffee, lukewarm.” The person taking the order said, “I’m sorry, sir, but that’s a rather strange and complicated order, and it might be a just little bit difficult to fill.” To which the guest replied, “Oh, but that’s exactly what you gave me yesterday!” [The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), February1998).]

6) “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” We must carry a cross to remind us that we are responsible in part for the cross that Jesus carried. When Rembrandt painted his famous work of the crucifixion called “The Three Crosses” which now hangs in the Louvre in Paris he did something most unusual. Among the faces in the crowd beneath the cross, he painted himself. That was his way of saying that he could not envision the crucifixion without admitting that he had a participation in it. Unfortunately, there are some who never see that. They identify with the Christ on the cross, rather than the Rembrandt in the crowd. That haunting old Negro spiritual gives the refrain “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The emphasis is on the you. If we were to be perfectly honest, we would have to answer, “Yes, I was there. Yes, I had a role in this.” It is only as we come to that understanding that we can then sing the last part of the hymn: “Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” I must so identify with the event of the crucifixion as to see myself in the story. It is not simply His story; it is our story as well. That is why Jesus challenges us in today’s Gospel to take up our crosses and follow him.

7) “Deny yourself and take up your cross”: The University of Chicago did a five-year study of leading artists, athletes, and scholars. Directed by Dr. Benjamin Bloom, the research was based on anonymous interviews with the top twenty performers in various fields. These people included concert pianists, Olympic swimmers, tennis players, sculptors, mathematicians, and neurologists. Bloom and his team of researchers from the University of Chicago probed for clues as to how these achievers developed. For a more complete picture, they interviewed their families and teachers. The report stated conclusively that drive and determination, not great natural talent, led to the extraordinary success of these individuals. Bloom noted, “We expected to find tales of great natural gifts. We didn’t find that at all. Their mothers often said it was another child who had the greater talents.” What they found were extraordinary accounts of hard work and dedication: The pianist who practiced several hours a day for seventeen years; the swimmer who rolled out of bed every morning at half past five to do laps for two hours before school, etc. [Dr. Denis E. Waitley, Winning the Innovation Game (New York: Berkley Books, 1986).] In another study, when the nation’s top achievers were asked to rate the factors they consider most important in contributing to their own success, hard work emerges as the highest-rated factor. Not talent or luck but hard work. Psychologists followed the careers of violinists studying at the Music Academy of West Berlin. By the time they were 18, the academy’s best students had already spent about 2,000 more hours in practice, on average, than had their fellow students.  That is denying yourself and taking up a cross. Business Guru Tom Peters recalls a wonderful story of a musician, it may have been cellist Pablo Casals, who died at almost one hundred years of age. The morning he died he was downstairs practicing at 6:00 a.m. “That’s just lovely,” says Peters. It is lovely if being the best at what you do is important to you. So we have a choice. We can heed part of Jesus’ words, “Deny yourself and take up your cross,” and have all the success this world has to offer. And there’s nothing really wrong with that. Jesus wants us to be the very best of whatever we choose to be, as long as it does not cost us our souls. There is a better way, however. Use Jesus as your guide. Follow Jesus. Deny yourself by giving yourself for others in Jesus’ name. That’s where real happiness lies. That’s what ultimate success is all about.

8) Through the cross and a fellow believer, he found the strength: Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his non-fiction, autobiographical trilogy, Gulag Archipelago, described his life in a Siberian prison. At one point he was so physically weak and discouraged that all he could hope for was death. The hard labor, terrible conditions, and inhumane treatment had taken their toll. He knew the guards would beat him severely and probably kill him if he stopped working. So, he planned to help them by simply stopping his work and leaning on his shovel. But when he stopped, a fellow Christian reached over with his shovel and quickly drew a sign of the cross at the feet of Solzhenitsyn, then erased it before a guard could see it. Solzhenitsyn later wrote that his entire being was energized by that little reminder of the hope and courage we find in Christ through the cross. It was a turning point. Through the cross and a fellow believer, he found the strength and the hope to continue.

9) The cross symbolizes Faith, Hope and Love:  The people of Lithuania take their cross-bearing a little more seriously than we do. For them, the cross symbolizes Faith, Hope and Love. There are crosses are everywhere in the countryside, on roads, in city parks and village squares. Communities and individuals erect crosses to bring them health and to commemorate events like weddings, births and christenings. Crosses are also erected to commemorate historical events. One of these is the Baltic Way, in which millions of people linked hands stretching across the Baltics from Estonia to Lithuania on August 25, 1989. About 9 monuments commemorate this extraordinary event. The nation’s pride is the Hill of Crosses, located north of Siauliai. Lithuanians erected crosses there as early as the mid-19th century. The Soviet government couldn’t tolerate that kind of spiritual expression, so they totally destroyed the hill in 1961, then again in 1973 and 1975. But people kept erecting more crosses, until in 1980 their destruction stopped. Today the crosses number in the thousands. They are different sizes and shapes, some simple, some ornate, but they immortalize Lithuania’s troubles, misfortunes, joys, hope and Faith. (Http://lithuanian-american.org/folklife/crosses.htm) For the Lithuanian people, the cross is more than a symbol in the Church. It is symbol for the world to see, a symbol that will not go away. It is a symbol of sacrifice, a sacrifice that gives each and every one of us Hope and Faith and courage. (Billy D. Strayhorn, At Cross Purposes).

10) “Those who lose their life for My sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it.” When Communist forces invaded Vietnam in the 1950s, Hien Pham, like many Vietnamese Christians, was arrested and jailed for his beliefs. After his release from prison, Pham made plans to escape Vietnam. He secretly began building a boat. Fifty-three fellow-Vietnamese made plans to escape with him. One day, four Vietcong soldiers came to Pham’s house and confronted him. They heard he was planning an escape. Was it true? Of course, Hien Pham lied to them. If he had told the truth, the Vietcong might have killed him and arrested the other fifty-three people. But after the soldiers left, Pham felt very uneasy. Had God really wanted him to lie? Didn’t he trust that God would provide for him under any circumstances? Even though it made no logical sense, Pham believed that God wanted him to tell the truth, even at the risk of his own life. So Hien Pham resolved that if the Vietcong soldiers returned, he would confess his escape plans. Hien Pham chose to bear a particular cross, the cross of honesty. He chose to sacrifice safety for faithfulness. He finished building his boat, and his friends made the final plans for their daring escape. To their horror, the Vietcong soldiers returned and demanded to know if the escape rumors were true. Hoping against hope, Hien Pham confessed his plans. Can you imagine his surprise when those four soldiers replied, “Take us with you!” That evening, Hien Pham, his fifty-three friends, and four Vietcong soldiers made a daring escape under cover of night in a homemade boat. But that’s not the end of the story! They sailed straight into a violent storm. Pham reports that they would have all been lost, if it hadn’t been for the expert sailing skills of, you guessed it, the four Vietcong soldiers. The escapees landed safely in Thailand. Eventually, Hien Pham emigrated to the United States, where he made a new life for himself. [Ravi Zacharias. Deliver Us from Evil (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), pp. 191-194.] He proved the truth of verse 35: “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.”

11) This recall and investigation cost the company $189 million. In 2001, the CEO of Baxter International, a medical supply company, made a decision that cost his company $189 million. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that, like many crooked CEOs who have been in the news lately, Baxter’s CEO Harry Kraemer must have done something unethical. He must have cooked the books, or drained the company accounts in order to finance his own luxurious lifestyle. No, that’s not it at all. It was Kraemer’s honesty and high sense of ethics that caused him to make such a momentous decision. Executives at Baxter International learned in 2001 that one of the products they manufactured, a filter for a kidney dialysis machine, might have been defective. Some dialysis patients using the Baxter International filter had died of unexplained causes. Rather than covering up the situation, Kraemer recalled all of the filters and instituted a rigorous investigation into the problem. This recall and investigation cost the company $189 million. Kraemer also recommended that his performance bonus for that year be cut, because this situation occurred under his leadership. And to top it all off, he informed all his competitors in the medical manufacturing business of the possible flaws in Baxter’s filters, so that they could benefit from the research his investigation turned up. [John C. Maxwell with Stephen R. Graves and Thomas G. Addington, The Power of One, Workbook (Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004), pp. 15-16.] Now I know nothing of Harry Kraemer’s religious affiliation. But I do know that is the sort of action that bearing a cross requires. When it is a matter of ethics, the follower of Christ is held to a higher standard than the world. That is why I say that, without the Gospel, it makes no sense to take up a cross.

12) “Get behind me Satan:” It’s encouraging to know that someone of Peter’s stature and importance in the early Church, could walk the walk so well with his foot in his mouth. What we have to remember is that Peter was human, and even the greatest of humans make mistakes. Henry Ford changed the world. He changed how things are assembled, marketed and how we travel. But did you know he forgot to put a reverse gear in the first car he invented. Not only that, but he didn’t build a door wide enough to get the car out of the building he built it in. If you go to Greenfield Village, you can still see where he cut a hole in the wall to get the car out.

13) 12% of Americans are “highly spiritually committed.” According to research conducted by George Gallup, 12% of Americans are “highly spiritually committed.” They are those who truly understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” Gallup says the members of this group are “a breed apart from the rest of the populace in at least four ways: 1. They’re happier. 2. Their families are stronger. 3. They’re more tolerant of people of different races and religions. 4. They’re community-minded.” They’re involved in service to others. That is cross-bearing that really makes a difference. (Rev. King Duncan)

14)  “Where were you during the critical days of the struggle?” During the dark days of World War II, England had a great deal of difficulty keeping men in the coal mines. It was a thankless kind of job, totally lacking in any glory. Most chose to join the various military services. They desired something that could give them more social acceptance and recognition. Something was needed to motivate these men in the work that they were doing so that they would remain in the mines. With this in mind, Winston Churchill delivered a speech one day to thousands of coal miners, stressing to them the importance of their role in the war effort. He did this by painting for them a mental picture. He told them to picture the grand parade that would take place when VE Day came. First, he said, would come the sailors of the British Navy, the ones who had upheld the grand tradition of Trafalgar and the defeat of the Armada. Next in the parade, he said, would come the pilots of the Royal Air Force. They were the ones who, more than any other, had saved England from the dreaded German Luftwaffe. Next in the parade would come the Army, the ones that had stood tall at the crises of Dunkirk. Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner’s caps. And someone, he said, would cry from the crowd, “And where were you during the critical days of the struggle?” And then from ten thousand throats would come, “We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.” We are told that there were tears in the eyes of many of those soot-laden coal miners with their weathered faces. They had been given a sense of their own value by the man at the top. Service does not always come with big fancy ribbons. And I think that it is forever true, that it is often the humble acts of service that provide us with the deepest sense of joy and the most fulfilling satisfaction. Jesus said “Whoever loses his life for My Sake and that of the Gospel will save it.”  I am persuaded that true discipleship is found in the coal mines with our cross upon our backs.

15) “Take up your cross and follow Me”:  “In the rolling hills of northern New Jersey stands a small church with a large, stone cross cut into an inside wall. Now, it happened that one of the church’s wealthier members didn’t like the cross there and said it was an eyesore. He offered to give a huge donation to the church in order to take the cross out of the wall and replace it with a stained glass window. But when he presented his idea to the church’s parish council members, they said to him, ‘We cannot do what you ask. The architect designed the church to have this cross; it gives strength to the wall. If you take away the cross, you will destroy the Church.'” [Rev. Erskine White, The Victory of the Cross (CSS Publishing Company, 1991).] The Architect of our salvation designed the Church to have the cross. The cross gives strength to the Church. Take away the cross and you do not have a Church.

16) Applause for the brave woman: Eleven people, so goes the story, were dangling from a rope beneath a helicopter in a rescue scenario. Being rescued were ten men and one woman. Word came down from the pilot that one of the eleven would have to let go; if not, everyone would perish. The woman spoke right up and said her whole life had been one of sacrifice — for her children, husband, and parents — and now she would be willing to sacrifice one last time by letting go. With that, the ten men applauded! The story’s point? Never underestimate the power of a woman! Never underestimate the power of the Gospel because it too is full of surprises, reversals, paradoxes, and strategies that on the surface don’t seem to make sense. “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). There we have the paradox. If you try really hard to save your life, you are going to lose it in the process.

17) “What good is it,” asked Jesus, “for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Adam Burtle, a University of Washington student, sold his soul for $400 on the Internet before the listing was removed and he was suspended from the site. “Please realize, I make no warranties as to the condition of the soul,” he wrote. “As of now, it is near mint condition, with only minor scratches. Due to difficulties involved with removing my soul, the winning bidder will either have to settle for a night of yummy Thai food and cool indy flicks or wait until my natural death.’’ EBay has blocked similar auctions in the past, but somehow Burtle’s offer slipped through. The bidding started at 5 cents. Burtle’s former girlfriend bid $6.66 but she was overtaken in the final hour of the auction when a Des Moines, Iowa, woman bid the price of Burtle’s soul to $400. “I don’t think she’s going to be able to collect on my soul, to be honest,’’ Burtle said, adding he didn’t intend for the ad to be taken seriously. “I was just bored, and I’m a geek,’’ he added. “So anytime I’m bored, I go back to my Internet.’’ (The Associated Press, 2001 & http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2001-02-09-ebay-soul.htm ) My guess is that over the centuries many people have sold their soul simply and solely because they were bored. Talk about a bad bargain! “What good is it,” asked Jesus, “for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”

18) Charlemagne’s death wish: King Charlemagne lived from 742 to 814 A.D. He conquered much of Western Europe, including France, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, parts of Italy, Germany, Austria, and Spain. Everywhere Charlemagne’s troops went, they spread education and the Christian religion. His rule unified and stabilized much of Europe, making him one of the most powerful rulers in history. Yet, in spite of all of Charlemagne’s power, he arranged at his death to have his body displayed with his hand resting on our verse for today: “What good is it, for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” [William Beausay II, The Leadership Genius of Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997), p. 45.] Charlemagne knew such an exchange was a bad bargain indeed. This is more than a material world. As the eminent Jesuit philosopher-scientist, Teilhard de Chardin, put it so memorably, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

19) Research for some scientific proof of a soul of a human body:  Some of you may know the story of James Kidd. James Kidd was a lonely man. He lived on the edge of deprivation. He spent most of his life in a rugged copper mining town in Arizona. But Kidd was deeply troubled. On January 2, 1946, he sat down and wrote out his will. Four years later he disappeared and was never heard from again. Authorities responsible for the settlement of his will, sixteen years after his disappearance, discovered that he had left almost $200,000 for “research for some scientific proof of a soul of a human body which leaves at death.” [Bruce Shelley, All The Saints Adore Thee (Baker Books, 1988), p. 46.)  You will find the soul in the same place you find love, hope, peace, joy and a host of other positive emotions. You can capture none of these emotions in a test tube, but we know they exist.

20) “I will show you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul.” Paginini, the great violinist, came out before his audience one day and made the discovery just as the applause ended that there was something wrong with his violin. He looked at it a second and then saw that it was not his famous and valuable violin, but a cheap substitute. He felt paralyzed for a moment, then turned to his audience and told them there had been some mistake and he did not have his own violin. He stepped back behind the curtain thinking that it was still where he had left it, but discovered that someone had stolen his violin and left this old secondhand one in its place. Paginini remained back of the curtain for a moment, then came out before his audience and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, I will show you that the music is not in the instrument but in the soul.” And he played as he had never played before; and out of that secondhand instrument, the music poured forth until his audience was enraptured with enthusiasm, and the applause almost lifted the roof off the building, because the man had revealed to them that the music was not in the machine but in his own soul. [Anthony P. Castle, ed., “Go Tell Everyone,” in Quotes and Anecdotes for Preachers and Teachers, p. 207. Cited by Fuller, Gerard, O.M.I. Stories for All Seasons (Mystic, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 1996), pp. 128-129.] The soul is who you are. It is the God-created spirit within us that will never die, It is what makes you distinctive. You are more than a nose and a mouth and a pair of ears, etc. You have a distinct personality. Even if we could eliminate all your physical characteristics, you the real you would still exist. That’s your soul.

21) “Jesus is more than a man.” Napoleon Bonaparte was entertaining a number of his generals at dinner. The superb meal of pheasant and wines was done. Napoleon and his guests were drinking cognac and smoking cigars. A discussion began about Christ. Napoleon listened intently but said nothing. Most of the guests dismissed the Nazarene as merely a man. Then their emperor said, “Gentlemen, you are wrong. I know men. Jesus is more than a man.” Our religion is not a matter of knowing about Jesus. It is one of knowing Him. Napoleon was one of those who intuitively knew that the Christ was more than human. (Fr. James Gilhooley)

22)  Readiness to face death: When the Berkenhead sank, Alexander Russell, a young officer aged seventeen, was ordered to command one of the boats which carried women and children. As they were pushing off, a sailor who was drowning clasped the side of the boat, but there was no room for even one more. A woman on the boat cried: “Save him! He is my husband.” Russell rose, jumped clear of the boat, and amidst a chorus of “God bless you!” he sank in the water, which was full of sharks and was seen no more, the sailor being pulled in to take his place.  — In today’s second reading, James insists on the necessity for action for the Christian. Our faith must find its expression in service to others, especially the needy. Jesus said: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself.” (Anthony Castle in More Quotes and Anecdotes (quoted by Fr. Botelho

 

23) What do we believe we are? What will we be? There were three young trees growing together in the forest. They were young, healthy, and ambitious. They compared their dreams. One wanted to be part of the structure of a castle or a palace, so it would be a spectator in the lives of the high and mighty of society. The second wanted to end up as the mast in one of the tall ships, sailing around the world with a great sense of adventure. The third hoped to end up as part of some public monument, where the public would stop, admire, and take photographs. Years passed by, and all three were cut down. The first was chopped up, and parts of it were put together to form a manager for a stable in Bethlehem. The second was cut down, and the trunk was scooped out to form a boat, which was launched on the Sea of Galilee. The third was cut into sections, two of which were put together, to form a cross on Calvary. Each had a unique and special part to play in the one great story of redemption. (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth! Quoted by Fr. Botelho).

 

24) “Send me Lord”…. Mrs. O’ Reilly received the news that one of her neighbors was seriously ill. She said to the person who gave her the news, ‘Tell her that I’ll remember her in my prayers, and that I hope she’ll soon be feeling better.’ And she was as good as she promised. She prayed very sincerely and fervently for her neighbor. She said to God, ‘Lord, I want to commend my neighbor to you. She’s very seriously ill. She needs a lot of help, a lot of support.’ When she finished her prayers, she felt better. And yet, something was bothering her. She sat down to think about it. Then she fell into a dream-like state in which she heard God saying to her, ‘I can see that you’re very concerned about your neighbor.’ ‘Yes, Lord, I really am,’ she replied with no little pride. ‘And I understand that your neighbor is in great need of help,’ said God. ‘So I’ve been told,’ said Mrs. O’Reilly. ‘You know, what she most needs is someone to spend a little time with her,’ said the Lord. ‘You’re absolutely right Lord. I was thinking the same myself,’ Mrs. O’Reilly answered. ‘Now when you asked Me to help her, you weren’t expecting Me to come down from Heaven to visit her, were you?’ ‘No, Lord, I wouldn’t expect you to do that. Nor would my neighbor expect it either. In fact, I think the shock of it might kill her.’ ‘But she does need someone to call on her?’ ‘She does, Lord.’ ‘Whom can I send?’ After a long pause, Mrs. O’Reilly said, ‘Send me, Lord.’ When she woke up from her dream, she knew exactly what she had to do. “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Flor McCarthy in New Sundays and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

 

25) Never deserting Lord and Savior: Two travelers were on the road, when a bear suddenly appeared. Both ran as fast as they could. One dashed to a tree by the side of the road, climbed up and hid in its branches. The other was not able to climb and hide. So he threw himself on the ground and pretended to be dead. The bear came and sniffed the man lying on the ground. The man kept perfectly still and held his breath knowing that a bear will not touch a dead body. The bear took him for a corpse and went away. When the coast was clear, the traveler who hid on the tree went down and asked his companion, “What did the bear whisper to you when he put his mouth close to your ear?” The companion replied, “He told me never to travel again with a friend who deserts you at the first sight of danger!”(Fr. JS Benitez).

 

26) Double Lives: G. K. Chesterton has a story about a popular philanthropist. The main reason for his popularity was his unfailing good humour. No one bothered to ask how he managed to be always happy. They assumed he was born an optimist. But then one day he was found dead in mysterious circumstances. Foul play was immediately suspected. However, the case completely baffled the police. Eventually it was Chesterton’s unlikely detective, Fr Brown, who solved the case. His verdict – the man committed suicide. At first the people refused to accept Fr Brown’s verdict. They couldn’t imagine how such a happy man could commit suicide. But then it emerged that there was a serious side to the funny man. The man who made others laugh was in fact a deeply depressed man. But he could never tell anyone how he really felt. The man had two lives. One was open, seen and known by all, the other secret, and known only to himself. In public he was the man who smiled at everyone. But in private he was wounded and desperate. He felt he had to live up to people’s expectations in return for their attention and esteem. He was never able to be himself. Finally, he realized that his whole life was based on a lie. The strain of trying to maintain the public image became so great that he could no longer cope with it. So he committed suicide. (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

 

27) Cross-loving saint: St John of the Cross, in the final years of his short life, asked God for three favors: not to die as a superior of any Carmelite monastery; to die in a place where he was unknown; and to die after having suffered much. All these requests were granted in their entirety. In the last years of his life – he died at the age of 49 – he was stripped of all office by his superiors, and some even attempted to have him expelled from the Order which he himself had helped reform. He was sent to a house where nobody knew him, where the superior disliked him, installed him in the worst cell in the monastery and complained bitterly of the expense to the community caused by his ill health. Finally, the suffering of the saint worsened as his legs and back became ulcerated. Realizing that death was near, John, instead of seeking medical care, called for the prior, and begged his pardon for all the trouble and expense he had caused him. The prior in turn was moved to ask forgiveness and left the cell in tears, a changed man, so much so that he was later to die in the odor of sanctity. That same night, without agony or struggle, John yielded up his spirit to his Creator. All of this does not immediately answer the question, “Why does God permit suffering?” Perhaps we could begin to see its meaning if we framed the question differently. “Would John of the Cross, whose example has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the 400 years since his death, would John have had the same influence on Christianity if the cross had never come into his life?” The answer has to be no, because suffering is something sacred; it confers upon all whom it touches the most intimate resemblance to the suffering Christ, whose cross saves the world. (Biblical IE).

28) “Hey, faith without works is dead.” A senior priest I know, I’ll call him Father A, tells this story of his first experience at a healing service: A skeptic himself regarding the charismatic movement, he was attending the service to humor his buddy, Father B. Father B had suggested that Father A might find some relief for his chronic indigestion. The presider was a well-known exponent of the charismatic healing ministry. After a period of hymn singing and community prayer, she invited people who were experiencing something that needed healing to come forward for a laying-on of hands. A number of the congregation began to form a line, but Father A was not among them. Fr. B nudged him and said, “A, go on up. You’ve got nothing to lose, and it might help your stomach.” Fr. A finally relented, approached the healer, submitted himself to the laying-on of hands, returned to the pew—and promptly popped a Gelusil into his mouth. When Fr. B responded to that gesture with a look of disapproval, Fr. A explained, “Hey, faith without works is dead.” This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that the life of Christian discipleship involves works of a certain kind: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”( Dennis Hamm, SJ).

29) Be a pencil in Christ’s hands: There is a beautiful story about pencil. The pencil maker took the pencil aside, just before putting it into the box. “There are 5 things you need to know,” he told the pencil, before I send you out into the world. Always remember them and never forget, and you will become the best pencil you can be.” “One: You will be able to do many great things, but only if you allow yourself to be held in someone’s hand.” “Two: You will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, but you’ll need it to become a better pencil.” “Three: You will be able to correct any mistakes you might make.” “Four: The most important part of you will always be what’s inside.” “And Five: On every surface you are used on, you must leave your mark. No matter what the condition, you must continue to write.” The same applies to each one of us too. When we find an answer to Jesus’ question who he is for us, we will be able to make ourselves useful to our contemporaries. We have to undergo the process that the pencil undergoes. One: We will be able to do many great things, but only if we allow ourselves to be held in God’s hand. And allow other human beings to access us for the many gifts we possess. Two: We will experience a painful sharpening from time to time, by going through various problems in life, but we’ll need it to become a stronger person. Three: We will be able to correct any mistakes we might make. Four: The most important part of us will always be what’s on the inside. And Five: On every surface we walk through, we must leave our mark. No matter what the situation, we must continue to do our duties to the best of our abilities. (Fr. Bobby Jose).  L/18

L/18

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 48) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit this website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 196 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.

Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.