Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Today´s passage is from the third Servant Song that comes from the book of the prophet Isaiah. It is something very difficult to hear. The servant is treated horribly. People beat him, and pull his beard.  They hit him in the face and even spit on him. All this hurts the servant, but it doesn’t make him change what he is saying and doing. The servant has his mind set on doing God’s will. He may be hurt physically and emotionally. He may be mocked by those around him.  But he is not going to change from what God is asking him to do. He knows that as long as he is faithful to God, God will be with him throughout his life. Why should he be concerned with what others are saying about him or doing to him?[1]

That is why Jesus calls Peter “Satan” in today’s Gospel reading. Peter recognizes that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, but when Jesus applies the Servant Songs to himself and says that He is going to suffer and be killed and then rise from the dead, Peter says, “No way.” Only a devil would interfere with the mission God the Father had given Jesus. Then Jesus teaches that there are more important things than the values of the world. Jesus calls His followers; He calls us, to put Him before everything else in the world, even our own lives: He who loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.

Following of Jesus Christ is serious business. It is not a matter of just being a member of a faith. It is not just a matter of observing various rules and regulations. It is not just a matter of knowing the beliefs of the faith. Christ is calling us to more than this. He is calling us to put Him before everything else in the world. That means being mocked because we take our faith seriously. That might sound extreme, but it isn’t extreme. We are blessed to live in this country. Freedom of religion is the first amendment to the Constitution of our Country, the first of the Bill of Rights. It is sad that the present government has issued a challenge against this freedom, but I am convinced that Catholics in the United States will not allow this to stand. Most other faiths in our country support us. The First Amendment applies to all, Catholics included[2].

Because this is an election year, people throughout the country are criticizing Catholics for defending their rights. There are people in your neighborhood, at your work, in your schools, who mock you for your beliefs. Yes, even here in the United States, it takes courage to be a Christian, a real Christian. It takes courage to be a Catholic, a true Catholic, one who is not going to compromise on the Truth that is Jesus Christ. It takes courage to sell out for the Lord. It takes courage to live the Lord’s words in today’s gospel: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.

And you know, the Lord never said that we would be in the majority. Nor did He ever say that following Him would be easy. But He did promise us this: if we follow Him, He would be with us, supporting us, caring for us, and winning the final battle over evil for us, so today our prayer is for the courage to be Catholic ■

[1] The Servant Songs may have originally referred to a particular prophet or to the people in general in exile in Babylon, but for the Church, they are seen as pointing directly to Christ. We use all four passages during Holy Week as prophetic declarations of what would become a reality on Good Friday. The first two songs speak about the call of the Servant.  In the first the world is introduced to the Servant.  He will become the eyes for the blind.  He will free the captives from prison and bring light to those in darkness. The Church sees this as a reference to Jesus as the Light of the World.   In the second Servant Song, the Servant himself speaks. He says that he has been called from his mother’s womb to bring salvation not just to the people of Israel but to the whole world. The Church sees this as referring to God’s plan that took place through Mary, and the mission of the Church to bring the Gospel to the ends of the world. The Fourth Servant Song reads almost like a description of Good Friday. The Servant is despised and rejected, a man of sorrows. He takes our sins upon himself and is crushed for our offences.  By his wounds, we are healed.  He will die, but then his life will be restored.
[2] There was a courageous Catholic who lived 450 years ago in England.  His name was Edmund Campion.  He was, perhaps, the brightest light of the Golden Age of England, the age of Queen Elizabeth I, 1558-1603.  This was the age of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe and Francis Drake. The queen herself heard Edmund Campion speak when he was a young man, and gave him special preferences.  She appreciated his intellect and scholarship.  Edmund’s life could have been rich and, outwardly, wonderful, but Edmund could not live with himself.  The more he studied, the more he was drawn to the Catholic Church.  He realized that he was putting his own welfare over the mission of Christ.  You see, by the time Edmund became an adult, it was considered treason for anyone to worship in a Catholic Church.  Treason was punished with the harshest of penalties, hung, drawn and quartered. All Catholic priests were to be arrested as traitors to the queen. Yet, Edmund knew that to deny the teaching of the Catholic Church would be to deny Jesus Christ. He was afraid of dying, but he could not reconcile his fear of death with the need to use his intellect to foster the Kingdom of the Lord.  So he left England and became a Jesuit priest.  He returned knowing that he would be called upon by the many Catholics hidden secretly throughout England, to speak to them and to guide them in the faith.  He also knew that wherever he went, there would be spies ready to turn him into the authorities. He was caught by the queen’s men shortly after one of his talks and was tortured and murdered as a traitor in 1581. He is now St. Edmund Campion, alive with the Lord, still guiding the faithful of England to hold on to the truth.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris