First reading: Is. 50:5–9a
The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.
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. He is near who upholds my right; if anyone wishes to oppose me, let us appear together. Who disputes my right? Let that man confront me. See, the Lord GOD is my help; who will prove me wrong?
Second reading: Jas. 2:14–18
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.
Gospel: Mk. 8:27–35
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
In other words Fr. Lino Nicasio, SVD (National Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus, Manila)
Today’s Gospel contains three points for our reflection. First, Jesus wants us to know Him personally and directly, and not just through other sources or third parties. It is a different experience when we finally meet someone in person “first hand,” as we say, compared to knowing someone we just heard about through others. We can size the person up and get to know him/her much better. Hence the question of Jesus is also addressed to us, “Who do you say that I am?” Hopefully, because we have encountered Him in prayer and meditation of the Word of God and the reception of the Sacraments, we can say in the spirit of Saint Peter, “Lord, I know that your are my Lord, Savior, and Friend, who will guide me as my Good Shepherd!”
The second point for our reflection concerns Jesus’ mission: to suffer, die, and rise again for our salvation. This is God’s will for Jesus, for which we are forever grateful. Thus it is only right and just to say again and again, “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise You because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.” By His sacrifice on Calvary, Jesus revealed the meaning of God’s Word, “God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
The third point for our reflection deals with our mission in light of the above. If our Lord and Master denied Himself wealth, power, fame, and bodily indulgence, then it is only right and just that we, His followers, deny ourselves as well through self-discipline. If our Lord and Master took up His cross, then it is only right for us His followers to take up our crosses of sacrifice as well. And if our Lord and Master followed the will of the Father, then it is only right and just that we follow His example of obedience as well.
Are all of the above difficult? Absolutely. But that is not the right question. It should rather be, “Are all of the above worth it?” I believe the answer can only be, “You bet your eternal life they are!” Amen.