Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 13, 2015
Reading 1 Is 50:5-9a
Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Reading 2 Jas 2:14-18
Alleluia Gal 6:14
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mk 8:27-35
On September 23, 2015 Father Junipero Serra will become the first saint ever to be canonized in the United States when Pope Francis comes to Washington, D.C. The other saints were canonized in Rome. Father Serra played a key role in bringing Christianity to the colony known as “New Spain,” which included California. He founded the first nine missions in what is now California in the 1700s, and he is said to have baptized more than 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000 in his lifetime. Pope Francis declared Saint Serra “The evangelizer of the West.” His first miracle was the curing of a lupus patient who had prayed to him. There was no second documented miracle; the pope declared his entire life’s work to be the second miracle.
Saint Junipero Serra is the patron of Serra International, a global lay apostolate for vocations. He was a Franciscan missionary who left a comfortable life in Spain to come to the New World and share his love of the Gospel. He died in 1784. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988.
Blessed Father Serra modeled the beatitudes for his native people. The Padre’s greatest hunger and thirst was for their holiness. He saw in them the pure of heart and so wanted them to see their God in His creation and each other. He was the peacemaker who struggled to build communities of faith on the Pacific coast while battles raged in revolution on our Eastern shores. He showed mercy to the wayward. He judged no one less than himself and welcomed strangers as friends.
I appreciate the support the Serra Club of Dubuque gave to me when I was a seminarian and for their support of priests, seminarians, sisters and permanent deacons today. I also appreciated the time I was able to visit a mission in California.
The first reading from Isaiah calls to mind the suffering servant. Many see it as a foreshadowing of Our Savior, Jesus. There were certainly many prophets who experienced suffering as they preached the gospel to the people.
In the Gospel, Jesus asks the question “who do people say that I am?” They have some wonderful answers but only Peter says “You are the Christ.” Jesus did not want the people to know this because they had different ideas about who the Christ would be. They expected a liberator who would gather in the Jewish exiles, restore the line of King David, bring an end to wickedness, sin and heresy, reward the righteous and rebuild Jerusalem. Jesus seized the moment to clarify his mission among them. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly…and be rejected…and be killed, and rise after three days.” As disciples we are called to accept the cross in our lives. Sigmund Freud wrote that we are threatened with suffering from three directions: from our own body, which is doomed to decay and death with pain and anxiety; from the external world, which may rage against us with overwhelming and merciless forces of destruction whether an act of nature or an act of terrorism; and finally from our relationships with other people in which we may feel misunderstood, betrayed or even hatred. Jesus, who immersed himself completely in the human condition, experienced every sort and degree of suffering in order to translate that experience into an eloquent expression of love. That suffering identified him as the Christ, the Savior. Our suffering, when united to his, identifies us as his own. When we make a voluntary choice to choose the cross in our lives it only has meaning when we do it for the sake of Jesus and for that of the Gospel. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, When Jesus calls a man, he bids him, ‘Come and die.’ Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. We, for our part, are to remain mindful that whatever we endure it is for Jesus’ sake and that of the Gospel; only then will our suffering have redemptive significance. I try to avoid suffering but some times that only makes it worse. Let us accept the cross when it is presented to us. There is more to life than having our team win in sports but it sure is easier to be on the winning side. I want to stay on the side of Jesus Christ. How about you?