September 12, 2021
by Mike Cherney
Creighton University's Physics Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 131

Isaiah 50:5-9a
Psalm 116:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35
Praying Ordinary Time

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In the first reading, Isaiah gives a reflection on virtuous suffering. The Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for deliverance from desperate situations. The second reading serves as a reminder of the importance of good works in addition to faith. I find two threads in today’s Gospel. The first is a recognition by Peter that Jesus is more than a prophet. The second is a prediction of the trials that Jesus and his true followers will face.

As I read the passage from Isaiah, I am drawn to see how it could be equally well applied to the loyal descendants of Abraham who kept the faith in times of trial as it could be to Jesus himself.

The son of one of my nephews took his final vows as a Dominican about a month ago. He recently preached on today’s passage from James’ epistle. He emphasized the difference between knowing what is good and doing what is good and how Jesus taught us how to love, but then showed us what it is to love.

If I imagine myself in Gospel settings, I frequently find myself connecting with the less glorious traits of Peter; today that is becoming enthusiastic, followed by an impulsive response. Sometimes I get things right as Peter did in the first part of the Gospel. And as in the second part of the Gospel when the talk turns to challenges, I can envision myself missing the point, and wanting to coach Jesus suggesting that His promises of hardships, suffering and death are “bad marketing.” Today’s first reading and psalm remind me of the broader context of the virtuous suffering in Jesus’ statements. I find myself thinking of times when I started to correct someone, only to end up being (like Peter) rebuked. (People who knew me in my prime would tell you that I could have used more of a filter. I would tell them that I already filter 95% of what I say. They would encourage me to make it closer to 100%). Perhaps this was part of my physicist training or perhaps it is a physicist’s tendency to feel less constrained around the normal set of social skills. (I am reminded of a friend from my bachelor and master studies, who, in his later life, would be assigned a “handler” whenever he needed to talk to people outside his working group.)

Retirement has given me time to reflect on a lifetime of actions. My prayer today focusses on how I have been blessed despite many of those actions.

Dear Lord,
You have stood by those faithful to you in times of challenge.
I am grateful for Your saving grace in the trials that fall in my path
as well as Your benevolence that finds its way to me notwithstanding my impulsiveness.
Thinking of St. Peter in today’s Gospel, thank you for the moments of insight and
forgive me for the times that I needed to be rebuked for failing to recognize the big picture.
Grant me the wisdom in knowing what is good and the strength in doing what is good.

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