Homily – September 16, 2018

A number of years ago when I was on the retreat team at Holy Cross Retreat Centre in Port Burwell down on Lake Erie a young man on retreat wanted to give me some advice as to how to get young adults back into the church.

He began by telling me we’ve got to get rid of the cross. It’s a downer, a bummer. We have to be more upbeat. The cross is a no no.

That sounds a bit like Peter in today’s gospel. Jesus gives the apostles a glimpse of his future. Beyond the admiration Jesus receives for his healings and curing there will be another reality. ’The Son of Mass must undergo great suffering and rejection by the religious authorities. He will be betrayed and undergo great suffering and be killed.’ This didn’t fit Peter’s image of the Christ, the Messiah, the delivered of Israel. ‘God forbid Lord this must never happen to you.’ For Peter this was a real downer, this wouldn’t work. It’s the miracles, the wonders that will win people over. A crucified Messiah won’t work!

But this is the reality, the foundational truth of our Christian faith; the crucified Christ, to the intellectual Greeks absolute foolishness, to the Jews a stumbling block. But to those who believe, Christ the wisdom of God, Christ the power of God.

You are the Christ. If Peter and the others saw Jesus as a miracle – working divine man and imagined they are to be likewise they had it all wrong.

Mark’s tells us the recognition of Jesus as the Christ involves the acceptance of a harsh truth; our Christ is a crucified Christ and we follow him bearing the cross in whatever form the cross may take in our lives and relationships, manifesting the dying of Jesus in our mortal bodies.

Our following of the crucified, our dying must find expression in our actions if it is to be real. Christ was a man for others. He showed his love and care for us in his acts of healing, his work to relieve the sufferings of men and women, he acceptance of people who were considered outsiders by society. Our second reading from James is quite blunt about this. If we say to a person who asks our help, ‘go in peace, keep warm, eat well and do nothing to clothe and feed them, we’re phony. Faith without good works is dead.

Faith is Jesus makes its own demands on us. There can be times when we are overcome by compassion-fatigue, things are beyond us. At such times we do the best we can but we never give up trying to be there for people in need.

There can be times when we have to challenge good people who are convinced the men and women who are fleeing persecution and danger are threats to our own prosperity, taking away jobs, living off our high taxes. They see families recused from refugee camps as freddy free loaders instead of good people looking for a new chance at life.

Faith without the good works of welcoming the stranger, seeking a living wage for the working poor, working for affordable housing, proper health care for our aged brothers and sisters is as dead as the dodo.

Faith in our crucified Christ has its own demands. It makes its own claims on us. Its implications are daunting. What you do to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine you do to me.