The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Dear brothers and sisters,
Why does Jesus not want anyone to know he left and began a journey (cf. Mark 9:30)? Where was he going? He was beginning his journey up to Jerusalem, to that place where he knew he, as he said, he would “handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise” (Mark 9:31). If he told them what was going to happen to him, why did not want them to know he was going?
On the one hand, we might surmise he desired to keep his going quiet because of the response of Saint Peter, who as the other Evangelists tell us, tried to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem. Is it possible that his disciples might rise up en masse to prevent the fulfillment of his mission? Might they – unwittingly – thwart our redemption?
On the other hand, Jesus might have wanted to keep his going secret he knew his disciples “did not understand the saying” (Mark 9:32). How often are we in that same boat, if you will? How often do we begin to become aware of the will of the Lord, to see the purpose underlying his designs, and yet, seeing them, we do not understand?
We can only come to an understanding of the Lord’s ways and, more importantly, an acceptance of the Lord’s will by staying close to him, by opening our hearts and minds and ears to him to listen to him in loving trust. Saint James tells us today that we “do not receive” what we ask in prayer “because you ask wrongly” (James 4:3). We ask wrongly because we ask to have our own desires and wants and designs fulfilled instead of asking to have our own desires and wants and designs united with the desires and wants and designs of God.
When he foretold his coming Death, the disciples were slow to understand what he said. Because of their preconceived notions,
the disciples do not yet understand that the way of the Messiah is the via dolorosa, the way of the cross. They are expecting the Messiah-King to enter his capital city, take up this throne, and begin his glorious reign. They have not truly “seen” and “heard” Jesus’ call to deny oneself, take up the cross, and follow him (cf. Mark 8:18 and 34).
Do we understand that the way of the Messiah, that the way of discipleship, is the via dolorosa, the way of the Cross?
After we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord today, we will ask that Father that we might possess our redemption “both in mystery and in the manner of our life.” (Prayer after Communion). What does this mean?
To be redeemed is, of course, to be bought back. Saint Paul tells us, “For you have been purchased at a price: therefore, glorify God in your body” (I Corinthians 6:20). The price by which we have been redeemed is the Passion and Death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
To possess our redemption in mystery is to acknowledge the unfathomable depths of the Lord’s love for us. While we were caught up in the mire of our sinfulness, when we were filthy and unlovable in the muck of our failures to love, he looked upon us with his eyes of compassion and took on our humanity. And when he foretold his Death, he spoke of the Cross not as a burden, but as a sacrifice, as something he willingly offered to the Father for us. This, then, is what it means to possess our redemption in the manner of our life: that we look upon the Cross – in whatever and however many forms it comes to us – not as a burden to be grudgingly taken up, but as a sacrifice to be lovingly offered to God.
It is one thing to know what this means in theory, but what does it look like in practice? Love can never remain a mere sentiment; it must also take on concrete form; it has to look like something.
On the day they were joined together in marriage, a husband and his wife promised to live no longer for themselves, but for each other. Spouses, then, possess their redemption both in mystery and in the manner of their lives when they willingly place their spouse’s needs before their own. Parents, too, possess their redemption both in mystery and in the manner of their lives when they look upon the needs of their children not as burdens that take away something of their own autonomy, but as a means of loving God and neighbor. Priests, too, possess their redemption both in mystery and in the manner of their life when they willingly put the needs of their parish before their own. Ultimately, it comes down to this question: Do we look upon the Cross as a burden or as a sacrifice?
Each one of us is called to conform ourselves so closely to the person of Jesus Christ, to him who gave everything for us, that people see him shining through us. May our reception of Holy Communion today unite us so closely with the Lord that our redemption will be known by us and by others by the sacrifices we make out of love for God and neighbor. Amen.