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His Crown of Suffering, Our Crown of Glory

Post Date: September 6, 2021
Author: Henry Avila

A Reflection on the Readings for the 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 12, 2021

Reading I: Isaiah 50:5-9a
Responsorial Psalm:: 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Reading II: James 2:14-18
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

First Reading  Is 50:5-9a

In this world, we will always be accompanied by suffering. That is the destiny of all those who are the offspring of Adam and Eve. Isaiah captures the essence of the suffering messiah in this chapter of his writings. But even though these are written about the Messiah, Jesus, it is also for us, His followers. Jesus tells us that those united with Him will also have to suffer with Him.

they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons . . . for my name’s sake. (Lk 21:12)

How true is it that when we suffer the most is when we typically pray the most? When we pray, we expect that God hears us and will respond to our supplications, because we are his creation. What some don’t realize is that God always acts first. He initiates and we must respond. Even before we begin to pray, He has already begun his work by creating the circumstances to answer the requests we are going to pray.

He first “opens my ear that I may hear.” (Is 50:5) Without this first action of God, we will not be able to discern the answer to our prayer. We are so busy “praying” that we don’t take the time to hear God’s answer to our prayer. That is the step that we most often forget . . . to be still, be quiet and listen for His voice. We must be “in His presence” when we pray, away from all distraction. And when our mind wanders (and it will), St. Teresa simply says to bring your thoughts back to God and your prayer and don’t be discouraged. This listening skill takes time and patience to develop. Don’t give up so easily . . . because that is what Satan wants . . . for you to give up praying.

Reading II Jas 2:14-18

The first reading shows us that God prepares us by opening our ears to hear His voice. The second reading helps us understand that the spirituality necessary to develop a deep relationship with God is to “know” that He will come to our assistance. He may not answer the prayer by taking away the suffering that befalls us, but He will use the circumstance of your suffering to bring about an abundance of grace and perseverance.

This “knowing” that God will always be by our side to help us is called FAITH. We know He loves us, we know He will never abandon us, we know that he “works for good for those that love him” (Rom 8:28), We know . . .

Faith, then, begins with the intellect, the mind. We make the conscious decision to trust Him in our minds first, then in our hearts. The problem with beginning our trust in God with the heart is that the heart deals with emotions and feelings and emotions are unpredictable. Trust is not a feeling, faith is not a feeling, just like Love is not a feeling . . . it is an act of the mind and of the will. It is a decision that “I will trust, I will Love, I will . . .“

It is in “doing” that we begin to develop the gift of faith. Remember I said that God always acts first . . . God must first give us the grace necessary to have the seed of faith grow in us so that we can act upon it.  So what must we do to gain this faith? The answer lies within this chapter of St. James. Our faith in God is an active faith . . . this faith is a “faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6) Our action is to love God and love our neighbor. Is it really that simple? Yes, but simple does not mean “easy.” It is difficult to love as God loves . . . unconditionally.

To love as God loves, we must have a heart like that of Christ. In helping others, we come to the realization that if we love our neighbor, then Christ loves us, too and He will also come to our assistance. We can better grasp God’s love for us when we practice the love He has for others.

Gospel Mk 8:27-35

In this Gospel, I believe Jesus has a question for each one of us that is important for us to answer, “who do you say that I am?”

This “you” is aimed directly at you and me and our answer will reveal our true relationship with Him and with the world around us. If your response to the question is, “Lord, you are my God and my salvation,” you do well . . .

If you say, “Jesus, I trust in you, you are my hope and my King,” you do well . . . but, do we truly mean it? Do we live it out each day or do we just pay Him lip service like the Pharisees, but our hearts are far from God? (Mk 7:6)  Take this self-test and answer the following:

Where does my time, my money and my thoughts go?  . . . take some time and really answer this question, because how you answer reveals your true “king,” your “hope” and your “trust.”  If we love the Lord like we say we do, why do we not spend more time with Him in prayer? Why do we not visit him in the Blessed Sacrament during the week? Why do we not know, study and meditate on the Scriptures? Why do we not love our neighbor as we love ourselves? Why don’t we know our Catholic faith like we should and bring others to Christ?

The answer is quite simple, we don’t do these things because they are difficult. They take much effort and take time away from the other pleasures and duties of life (work, children, recreation, relaxation, etc.) In other words, putting God first requires sacrifice.

This is why Jesus tells his disciples in this week’s Gospel, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” We must “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24) so that we can focus on that which truly gives us the life that really matters, eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, our life is short compared to eternity. Take advantage of the life you have and spend time with family and with God. If you are a parent, teach your children the faith. Teach them how to pray, not just how to say prayers. Husbands, love your wife! Spend time in daily prayer with God. Take the time to love God like He deserves to be loved so that when our time comes to meet the Lord face to face, we may seize the crown that awaits us. (2 Tim 4:8)

Peace be with you,

Henry Avila

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