Mass for Sunday 16 September 2012


Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Who is Jesus Christ?  What is a Christian?  Even when Jesus was alive people raised many questions about him.  Some were astonished by his words and his authority and yet retorted:  “Is this not the carpenter’s son?”  Others saw him as a rebel; others still considered him a prophet.
Jesus we know is the Saviour of Israel.  How will he save and liberate us?  When Jesus says that he will save us by the cross Peter is scandalised because he misunderstood the nature of the kingdom that Jesus came to form in our hearts.

Who is Jesus Christ then?  The only Son of God, who shared our human nature?  We could go through the Scriptures and learn all kinds of facts about his talks and speeches.  Even then we would miss the point.  No amount of acquired knowledge about him will ever replace a personal knowledge which comes from a sharing in his pattern of life.
This has the inconvenient challenge for us of the certainty of suffering coming in our lives as it did in his.  Our knowledge of Jesus will be to the extent that we lose our self and encounter the cross with him.

We can really say that the cross is the place of truth for the Christian - the test which decides whether we are truly a disciple of this unexpected Christ hidden under the features of the suffering servant.
When we have people as our friends we want to share in their life and spend time with them.  If we want to be friends with Jesus then we are invited to follow him through the greatness of his mission, to tap into the Mass to the power of Calvary and the glory of the resurrection, to be nourished by his Word, but also to be challenged by him.
Carrying our cross, or as the Hebrews said:  “Carrying our tau”, comes from t the last letter of the Jewish alphabet.  Or just as we say we are doing something from a to z, the Jews would say from aleph to tau.  Saint Francis of Assisi wanted his followers to follow God’s will from aleph to tau.  That is why for Saint Mark, the author of today’s Gospel, being open to carry out whatever God asks of us is the first step in dying with Jesus and following him.
It means, of course, the cross of suffering, but it means just as much to follow the unexpected Christ whatever he asks of us and wherever he asks us to go.  This is surely an indication of our readiness to see each moment of life as an opportunity to respond to others as Christ did, to be a ‘for others’ rather than a ‘for me’ person, as Jesus was.  This is the great lesson that Peter learned when he proclaimed Jesus as the Christ and yet tried to remonstrate with him because he did not want or understand suffering.
Jesus has an alternative logic:  Whoever loses his life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel will save it.  This means that if we are always there for others, then the cross will be our glory, especially through the inconvenient and challenging things that happen to us.  This is how we know, as the Opening Prayer says that:  “We may feel the working of your mercy; grant that we may serve you with all our heart.” 
Jesus is inviting us into a wonderful adventure, of what it means to follow him totally.  It is a message for married, unmarried, lay and consecrated people; all of us who are loved uniquely by Jesus who died to save us.
+ Denis J. Hart,
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