Today, Christ tells us what it means to be a disciple.
Peter proclaims to Christ what has been revealed to him – ‘You are the Christ’. As He says this to Christ he is also proclaiming to history that we have a savior and He loves us. Great and glorious news – hearts should rejoice.
We too, say this – we know that Jesus isn’t just some famous thinker or just a great charitable do-gooder; though these are good things this isn’t who He truly is. He is the Christ, the anointed one – He is God Himself come among us. We announce ourselves as devoted followers of God – not another person or wise thought. We have total faith in Him – He is our savior. The heavens resound in celebration each time we proclaim this. But Jesus tells us this is not enough. St. James writes, in another part of his letter ‘Even the demons believe that and tremble.’
Christ in response tells Peter, those around Him, and us – what it means to be a follower of His. ‘“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.”’ And to drive home the point Christ first tells them that He too will have to travel the same path even to the extreme end: ‘“the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed…”’
He is telling that we are not on a bandwagon of victors, riding high with no worries; the envy of all around us. We will be, and are, abused; we are the feared – therefore the targets of those who fear us. We will be, and are, tested and tried – all the time. If we wish to follow our Lord there is no other way. He tells us this much in the Gospel of St. John: ‘If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you’. The history of the church has given witness to this every day of every year since. If we wish to follow Christ we must expect this treatment? Why? Because, as St. James tells us, we are called to do; true faith moves us to works. True faith turns the title Christian from a noun to a verb – it has action.
For me this is hard – for two reasons:
- First: most in our society don’t want to have to act on God’s Word; they would rather be left alone, not having to address both the message and responsibility. When we come along and remind them of this truth they are threatened, they doubt their ideals and so they lash out against us – the messenger.
- Second, and probably most importantly (at least in my life): today, St. James reinforces what Christ is teaching us in the Gospel; that comfort is not the norm His followers should expect. In fact, Christ calls us out of comfort to continue His mission of proclaiming the good news with words and action. ‘”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”’ He commands His apostles and us. St. James, in the second reading, tells us what true faith needs to produce – works. ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?’ James, after some examples, continues ‘… faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead’ These are hard words – the call from a sedentary idea of faith to a faith of action is one we would rather not hear – at least most of us some of the time. I myself have fallen and continue to fall, time and time again, back into the ‘comfortable’, ignoring those outside.
As for the first reason: we shouldn’t fear with God at our side ‘for he has said, “I will never fail you nor forsake you.”’
And as for the second reason: I am ashamed! I need to change my habits! I need to move forward into the unknown and the uncomfortable. I need to use my faith in Jesus and allow it to bear fruit in the world by my actions. These actions; mostly small and little, but at times large and great are what a disciple is called to offer! And not just when it suits us but constantly – we should live a life of Christian action – of love.
So, brothers and sisters I will close with some questions to reflect on:
How do each of us view our relationship with Christ? Do we keep it deep within not letting others know about it or do we wear our relationship openly?
How do each of deal with our crosses? Do we do everything we can to pass them on to someone else or do we embrace them, carry them and look to help others carry theirs?
Do we look for the easy way? Stay close to those who are most like us? Never leaving the safety of the community? Or do we knowingly look to go outside the box? Do we look for opportunities to bring Christ to situations and places outside our comfort zone as Christ did? Is my faith a noun or a verb?
I pray that each of us will take the time to look within and find answers to these questions.
Let’s make sure that, for each of us, faith is not a noun but a verb.