1st Reading – Isaiah 50: 5-9a
This passage is also the appointed reading for Palm Sunday. This is the third servant song from Second Isaiah. The people are still in the throes of captivity yet reject the prophet’s message of hope. The exile continues and the people are getting tired of this prophet saying there will be a positive outcome (Birmingham, W&W, 642). Yet he must be heard! Isaiah is adamant that his voice must be heard because God is by his side. What faith. How does this speak to you? When have you felt this boldness to pursue what is right and important to you?
Christians, of course, saw in these songs the picture of Jesus, our Christ.
In fact they were used to help them pray about and understand Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection. They also contained an inherent challenge for Jesus’ disciples – and for us. (Celebration, Sept. 2006) How do they challenge you?
Further reflection questions: Why do we rebel sometimes to where God may be leading us? What does it mean when Isaiah says he wants to appear together with those that oppose him? How does God help us?
2nd Reading – James 2: 14-18
This letter is getting down to the brass tacks of our faith. If we have faith, what are we going to do about it? How does this reading inspire and/or challenge you?
There was quite the debate in the early church community about faith and works. Paul often spoke as faith being God’s gift to us, and so many thought Paul was in opposition to James’ letter (See Galatians 2:16). But both can work together. “To be Christian means to act upon the Word as our response in love,” (Birmingham, W&W, 643). Mark Powell seems to think it is apples to oranges, because Paul and James define faith differently. James seems to think of faith as mere intellectual assent, the act of knowing or believing certain things to be true. For Paul, faith is a radical orientation toward God that transforms one’s entire being and produces a “new creation”, (Introducing the New Testament, p. 455). Who inspires you as someone who balances their faith and works?
The Gospel – Mark 8: 27-35
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus questions. Jesus in his humanity is revealed in this question. Jesus first asks what others think of him, but then he gets to what he really cares about…what do his friends think of him? Revelation literally means an “unveiling” or “disclosure” of something previously hidden. Jesus is God revealed:
- Revelation is God’s own self-disclosure.
- Revelation points to particular events and particular people through whom God has communicated in decisive ways with humanity.
- Revelation calls for our personal response and appropriation. True knowledge of God is a practical rather than a merely theoretical knowledge.
- Revelation of God is always a disturbing, even shocking event. Look at Jesus! He ate with sinners-this was shocking at the time.
- Revelation transforms the imagination…it stretches our understanding.
Taken from Faith Seeking Understanding by D. Migliore, p. 24. Who is Jesus to you? How does He reveal himself to you in these different ways?
Notice how Jesus speaks openly, but Peter immediately turns defensive. Jesus does not shy away from confrontation. He walks right into it. Jesus is clear about what the future brings for him, and it will mean suffering. But through human weakness, the strength of God abides (Birmingham, W&W, p. 642, 645). Jesus challenges us to find strength in our weakness…to be open when we are hurting and sad. Can you do that? Can you live a life openly like Jesus did?
Jesus: divine AND human? We question this (like Peter) because we are trying to understand who he is. Our love for him makes us WANT to know him. In the end, there will always be some mystery in the knowing. Like with all of us, we may never truly understand and know each other completely. St. Augustine said, “If you have understood, then what you have understood is not God.” But does that stop us from loving anyway?
How do we lose ourselves to save ourselves? It is the cost of discipleship, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would say. When friends were trying to convince him to stay in America while National Socialism raged in his homeland of Germany before WWII began, he refused. “I shall have no right to participate in the reconstruction of Christian life in Germany after the war if I do not share the trials of this time with my people. Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose; but I cannot make this choice in security.” Bonhoeffer did return to Germany, where he was eventually arrested and executed in a concentration camp.