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24th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B) September16, 2018

Isaiah 50: 5-9a; Psalm 59; James 2: 14-18; Mark 8: 27-35

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:


 The 24th




On the road to Jerusalem Jesus asks his disciples a general question, "Who do people say that I am?" The disciples respond with what people were saying about him. The popular notion was that Jesus was someone like John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the great prophets.

People today might say Jesus was one of the great founders of a world religion; a good man who cared for the poor and outsider; a wise teacher like Moses and Gandhi. Others that he was a radical who wanted to overthrow the oppressive forces over his people. If asked that question a modern probably would go to Google. There one reads that Jesus was, "a first century preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity."

True enough, but those responses are like the disciples’ response to Jesus’ first question, "Who do people say that I am?" Popular opinion is one thing. That’s not what Jesus was looking for. He wanted a more personal response, one that would not only come from the mind, but also from the heart – an answer that would include total commitment to him and his ways. After all, Jesus was leading his disciples to Jerusalem where he was anticipating he would be put to death for who he was and what he was doing. So, he asks the disciples to follow him all the way to his death – and then to his resurrection. Will they be willing to stay with him as he gives up his life? Willing to accept the suffering and sacrifice that will come to any who choose to follow him?

Peter’s answer, "You are the Christ," that is, the Messiah. It is the right answer. But their notion of a Messiah was a victorious ruler. It certainly did not include any notion of suffering. So, Jesus tells them not to tell anyone until they learn what kind of Messiah he will reveal himself to be.

We can’t be too hard on the disciples. There are believers today who still have a notion that following him will bring health and wealth. This "prosperity gospel," teaches that God wants financial success and well-being for us. Faith can overpower the curses of sickness and poverty Having faith – and sending donations to certain religious organizations and their ministers as signs of that faith – will yield security and prosperity for the believer. The "prosperity gospel" first emerged in the 1950's in the United States. Of course it would, it’s teaching affirmed our fundamental belief about our country. We are a "Christian country" and therefore blessed by God with wealth and power. In the light of this teaching what would you think if you were poor, or afflicted with a serious disease? Would you take it as a sign you didn’t have enough faith? Or, that you offended God and so God is punishing you? Again – we can’t be too hard on the disciples because their notion of Jesus as Messiah might not be so very different from our belief and practice.

Jesus had more to teach and show his disciples about what kind of Messiah he was. At this turning point in the gospel he, "warned them not to tell anyone about him." This call to secrecy appears in Mark’s gospel. It seems Jesus did not want to become a celebrity known only for his miraculous powers. It was too early in the formation of his disciples to have them spread word of his messiahship. They would have gotten the message all wrong. They would have missed what Jesus meant when he invited us to "take up your cross and follow me."

Perhaps the disciples would have been helped in their understanding of Jesus if they had reflected on our first reading. It’s one of the four Servant Songs in Isaiah and supports what Jesus says about himself. Early Christians drew on Isaiah and gave Jesus the title "servant." They saw that Isaiah’s "suffering servant of God" was realized in Jesus. So, those who wish to follow Jesus must be the kind of servant Jesus was, willing to deny self for others. Our second reading from the Letter of St. James spells out what taking up the cross and following Jesus means in concrete ways. We cannot just declare our faith in Jesus. If we don’t put faith into actions it means nothing and is not enough to save us. "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says they have faith, but do not have works?" Just as God became flesh and was revealed to the world in Jesus, so God’s proximity and love is revealed in the flesh through the words and deeds of all believers.

We return to Jesus’ question to his disciples, now put to us: "Who do you say that I am?" Jesus is not only the model who teaches us how to live our lives in accord with God’s will. His life, death and resurrection and his gift of his Spirit, is the very source of the good works we do in his name. (James has spelled out just some of these good works for us today. We will hear more from him next Sunday.")

"Who who do you say I am?" Is not a question we have to answer just once at a certain period of our lives. As we pass through various stages our response will vary, depending upon life’s circumstances and our own maturity and faith. Today we are again asked: Who is Jesus for us now and what is the meaning of Jesus for our lives? It might be timely for us to take Jesus’ question with us through this week.

We could take the question to prayer and silent reflection. Where am I in my life and what’s going on now? How has Jesus been the center and guide for my thinking and acting? Then, as the week progresses: what are my responsibilities as his disciple? How am I being asked each day to take up the cross and follow him? Or, to summarize in a familiar dictum – as life presents itself to me these days – "What would Jesus do?"

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


Statement of the bishops of the border between Texas and Northern Mexico

The cry of Christ in the voice of the migrant moves us


Jesus, Mary and Joseph, as immigrants and refugees, sought a place to live and work, hoping for a compassionate human response. Today this history repeats itself; this morning we visited detention centers and respite centers for mothers and their adolescent and minor children traveling with them. Centers like these have been described as places of intolerable and

inhumane conditions. There we heard the gospel call: "Because I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was hungry and you gave me food…" (Mt 25:35-36).


We Christians must challenge ourselves to think about Jesus’ nonviolent life. Fr. John Dear writes in his book, They Shall Inherit the Earth (Orbis, 2018), that "the four Gospels portray Jesus as a pilgrim of peace walking from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he eventually confronted the imperial system head-on and gave his life for humanity and the coming of God’s reign of peace and nonviolence." Notice that peace and nonviolence are listed separately. If God’s love is expressed as peace, nonviolence is what God’s love looks like in action.

Jesus lived nonviolence as a way of life, not just when it was convenient. Some will say, "Look what he did in the temple." To be nonviolent does not mean that one is a door mat in the face of injustice. We need to become spiritually mature human beings--fully utilizing the compassion that is woven into our being and joyfully take care of others, accept stewardship of our earth, and challenge systems that are not leading us to become a just society--all by nonviolent means.

The night before he died, Martin Luther King Jr told his audience in Memphis, "The choice is no longer violence or nonviolence. It’s nonviolence--or nonexistence." He also said that humanity "must evolve, for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." Pope Francis affirms Dr. King by stating, "I urge all people. . respond to Dr. King’s prophetic words and know that a culture of nonviolence is not an unattainable dream, but a path that has produced decisive results. The consistent practice of nonviolence has broken barriers, bound wounds, healed nations."

This week is Campaign Nonviolence Week across the nation and in many places around the world. This grassroots movement will have over 2000 actions taking place including a silent march in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, September 22 ( We have three events here in Raleigh and YOU ARE INVITED TO ATTEND:

9/17, 7PM: "Speak No Evil: Creating the U.S. Constitution" Community United Church of Christ, 814 Dixie Trail

9/18, 7PM: "Happiness is Homemade Forum: Affordable Housing Promotes Nonviolent Living" Highland United Methodist Church, 1901 Ridge Rd.

9/20, 7PM: "Toward Wholeness: Prayer Vigil for Nonviolence" Sacred Heart Church, 200 Hillsborough St.

------Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Isaiah reading:

The Lord God is my help,

therefore I am not disgraced.

I have set my face like flint,

knowing that I shall not be put to shame.


Doing the right thing doesn’t guarantee we’ll succeed. It’s not about success, but about being faithful. But how can we be faithful when suffering is the price we sometimes must pay for doing what is right? What will keep us from yielding and turning in another direction? Isaiah has a piece of wisdom and assurance for us today, "The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced."

So we ask ourselves:

  • Have I ever suffered or been penalized for doing what was right?
  • What gave me the determination and strength to stay the course?


"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out." ---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Andere Fletcher #0130628 (On death row since 12/9/11)
  • Terry Hyatt #0199877 (2/7/00)
  • Cerron T. Hooks #0561692 (2/9/00)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:


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Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.


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