24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B (Mk 8:27-35)

Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” [Mk 8:33] In rebuking Peter, Jesus makes the point that God is beyond our understanding, beyond our knowing; it is not for us to question God, for we are His creatures, created in His image to love and to serve Him.

Carry Your Cross

Carry Your Cross

Our physical lives are measured by the passage of time, a steady beat, second by second, moment by moment, day by day, that begins at the moment of conception and continues only for as long as God has determined it should be. Each second of our life lasts exactly as long as the prior one; and one second 2000 years ago lasted exactly the same as one second today.  We see time as a linear concept, inexorably moving from one moment to the next, never slowing nor stopping, always moving forward, never back. We see the past as memories of what has been, the future as visions of what might become, but we live in the now.

We cannot understand or know God because He exists outside of time. To God, every time is now.

The speed of light is 186, 282 miles per second. I have no idea why that is or how it has been determined to be so, but I can willingly accept that it is true. In 1905, Albert Einstein introduced his Special theory of Relativity, which declared a law for all motion. Einstein posited that the combined speed of any object’s motion through space and its motion through time is always precisely equal to the speed of light. Since light waves use all of their motion to travel through space at light speed, they have absolutely no motion through time. Thus every photon that has ever been produced exists in an ageless state. Or more simply, the universe ages but light does not. Scientists tell us that we can approach but never travel as fast as or faster than the speed of light. They have also proven that as a body approaches the speed of light, time slows down, inversely relative to the speed of travel.

So ends today’s science lecture.

We describe God as light and in our profession of faith we say “Light from Light, true God from true God…” I can think of no better way of describing God. Jesus tells us “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father.” [Jn 14:6] And in today’s Gospel he tells us “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” [Mk 8:34]

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah tells us of his suffering for the Lord when he says “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.” He freely and willing took up his cross, suffering for the Lord. [Is 50:6]

Jesus tells us to, “Take up your cross.” A cross is not whatever difficulties we happen to have in life. We take up the cross when we give of ourselves, out of love, for someone else. Any sufferings we experience in life can be a cross, but only if we embrace it and offer it up to God.

When we help someone, we, if only for a moment, deny our own importance and acknowledge their importance. When we help someone, we are giving our life, if only a small portion of it, for them. Perhaps this seems exaggerated to say that I gave my life to someone, but what is life other than a series of minutes? To give a few minutes to help someone is to give a little bit of your life for them. This is how we can imitate Jesus who gave his life for us.

In the second reading we are challenged to not only have faith, but also let that faith drive us to act, for faith without actions is no true faith at all. St. James asks us “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?” [James 2:15-16] To follow Jesus requires us to act, to live our lives as Christ lived his, to serve those who are in need, to give some measure of our own life for the benefit of others. We are called to take up our cross and, like Simon of Cyrene, to help lift the crosses of our brothers and sisters who are struggling with their own.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis closes with this statement: “The principle runs through all life, from top to bottom, give up yourself and you will find your real self. Lose life and it will be saved. Submit to death – the death of ambitions and secret wishes. Keep nothing back. Nothing in us that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for Christ, and you will find him, and with him, everything else thrown in.”

One year ago I stood before you as a newly ordained, freshly minted, wet behind the ears deacon. At that moment I had memories of the long years of preparation and formation and visions of what was yet to be. God had a plan but, as usual, he wasn’t sharing. But I can honestly and faithfully report to you today that so far, his plan has far exceeded my wildest expectations. Perhaps the greatest and most treasured gift that I have received has been the opportunity to come face-to-face with Jesus. For most of my life I have wondered what he was really like as a person but then I suppose I never really sought him out, never truly looked for Christ.

But this past year I found him, and with him, everything else thrown in. This past year I met him at the hospital, in nursing homes, prisons, on the streets, and right here at St. Albert the Great. I met Jesus every time I was with you.  You have given me great joy and I thank God for His precious gift of you.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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