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Our Gospel reading this weekend is very familiar. We are told that Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi and along the way Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples must have pleased that they could fill Jesus in on the local buzz. They told him some say: “John the Baptist, others, Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” Jesus then turned the question on them. “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responded: “You are the Christ.” Jesus then went on to teach them “that the Son of man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priest and the scribes, and be killed and rise after three days.” Peter took him aside to rebuke him, but Jesus in turn rebuked Peter and went on to remind all of his disciples: “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.”
Certainly Jesus could not be accused of false advertizing. He is clear that those who follow him should not expect a life of ease or prosperity. Rather they should anticipate some hardship and perhaps even suffering. If this were all that Jesus was offering it would be surprising if he had any disciples at all. We also have come to know and believe, though, that it is in following Christ in this life, ultimately we will come to eternal life.
Our first reading this weekend is from the book of the Prophet Isaiah. In it, Isaiah is clear that in the face of any difficulties: “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.”
For our second reading this weekend, we continue to read from the Letter of Saint James. In today’s section, James reminds us that our faith must find expression in our actions. “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works! Can that faith save him?”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What would you say to someone who had lived a good life, was a good Christian person yet continued to experience trials and difficulties?
- What does it mean for you to pick up your cross and follow Christ?
- How do you understand the connection between faith and works?