Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year (Year B)


Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Theological Formulations and Life Implications

Isaiah 50:5-9

James 2:14-18

Mark 8:27-35

The story is told of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson on a camping trip. As they lay sleeping one night, Holmes woke Watson and said, “Watson, look up into the sky and tell me what you see.” Watson said, “I see millions of stars.” Holmes asked, “And what does that tell you?” Watson replied, “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Theologically, it tells me that God is great and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it tells me that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. And what does it tell you?” Holmes answered, “Someone stole our tent.” Some people are great at speculative knowledge but when it comes to its implication for practical living they score zero. Such is Peter in today’s gospel.

Scholars tell us that the passage we have for today’s gospel is the central passage in Mark’s Gospel. The first half of the Gospel leads up to this passage, and the second half of the passage flows from it. From the beginning of the Gospel up to this point has been a preparation for the revelation of the secret of Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, in this passage the Messianic secret is revealed, and from here to the end of the Gospel deals with the fulfilment of Jesus’ mission as the Messiah. What we have in this passage is Jesus examining his disciples to see whether they have got the point. The examination is in two parts: a doctrinal-theological and a practical-existential part.

The first part focuses on the question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29a). But in typical theological fashion, they have to summarize what others have said on the issue before giving their own views. Peter, spokesperson for the apostles gives the pointed and correct answer: “You are the Messiah” (verse 29b). The importance of this moment of disclosure is brought out more in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus congratulates Peter, assuring him that this knowledge is a direct revelation from God. Then he rewards Peter, whose name until them was Simon, by giving him the name Peter, meaning Rock; and promises that upon this rock he, Christ, would build his church and that the powers of hell would not prevail against this church. That is the end of the first half of the examination, the theoretical, theological, doctrinal part; and Peter emerges in flying colours.

The second half of the examination has to do with the practical, existential implications of the conclusion they reached in the first part. “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (verse 31). At this point Peter disagrees vehemently with Jesus. Even though he scored 100% in the doctrinal part of the exam, he shows by his actions that, in fact, he knows nothing of the practical implications of what he had said. So Jesus gives him a thumbs down. “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (verse 33). The Rock who came out in flying colours in the doctrinal section of the exam ends up as the Satan in the practical section, which is really the determining section.

This must have been a big shock for Peter, and it should for us too. For we are very much like Peter, paying too much attention to doctrinal correctness and too little attention to practical life correctness. See how we prepare people for membership in the church. We teach them all the correct doctrines and examine them to see whether they have learnt the correct answers, whether they can recite the correct creed. We ask them, “Do you believe in this and that doctrine,” and they say “I do.” Then we baptize them. But have we devised a way of examining them on how they are following up the implications of these doctrines in their day to day lives? No. That seems not to matter too much for us, but it matters very much for Jesus.

In the parable of the Last Judgment, Jesus reveals that we are judged more by how we have practised the faith than by how we have believed. Of course, both are important, but practical life has the priority. Let us ask God today to make us solid as the rock in our profession of the true faith, but even more so in our practical commitment to the demands of the faith in our daily lives.


Homily for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Faith Without Works is Dead

Isaiah 50:5-9

James 2:14-18

Mark 8:27-35

One basic belief of Christians is that the Bible contains no contradictions when it teaches a truth that is essential to salvation. In today’s second reading, we encounter an apparent contradiction regarding a truth that is relevant to salvation, one that is so central to the Christian faith that it brought a major split in the Church and still continues to divide us. One reason for the split of Protestantism from Catholicism is Martin Luther’s interpretation of Romans 3:28, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.” Luther understood this as meaning that we are saved by “faith alone.” Luther was so convinced of the importance of this viewpoint that he included the word “alone” in his translation of Romans 3:28, even though it is not in the original Greek text. In today’s second reading, James tells us that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:17). How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction between Paul’s teaching that we are justified by faith apart from good works and that of James that faith without works is dead?

To reconcile this tension, we need to ask ourselves three key questions. (1) What is justification? (2) What are works? (3) What does the Bible as a whole teach on the subject of salvation by faith?

What is justification? Justification is the act of God in which sinners who confess their faith in Jesus Christ are declared innocent, as if they had never sinned. Justification is a free gift of God’s grace, based entirely on the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification happens at the moment when one submits in faith to Jesus Christ. In the early church, this change of heart (repentance and believing the gospel) was marked by the penitent receiving baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

Justification is not salvation. Whereas justification happens at the beginning of the Christian life, salvation happens at the end of it, when the believer is finally admitted into God’s eternal presence after judgment. For us, Christians in the world, justification is already in the past, but salvation is yet in the future. This is the consistent picture we get from the very letters of Paul. Paul speaks of salvation as a future event. For example:

Now that we have been justified by his blood, we will be saved through him from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9)
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers (Romans 13:11).
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)

One problem that Luther had, and many Christians today still have, is that of confusing justification with salvation. If we keep the two events apart, we see that God who justified us by faith alone does not save us by faith alone. The justified person must bear fruit of good works, fruit befitting repentance or risk damnation on judgment day (see Matthew 7:16-23; John 15:1-2)

What are works? Another source of confusion on the issue of faith and works is that there are two kinds of works mentioned in the New Testament letters usually attributed to Paul. There are works of the law (erga nomou), mentioned in Romans and Galatians, which are believed to be written by Paul himself in his lifetime, and there are good works (erga agatha), mentioned only in Ephesians, which is believed to be written by Paul’s disciple after Paul’s death. What is the difference between works of the law and good works?

Works of the law are actions that are neither morally good or bad in themselves, which one does simply to observe a law. Such actions include keeping the Sabbath, circumcision, and avoiding certain meats. Good works, on the other hand, are works that are good in themselves in that other people benefit from them, such as, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick. What Paul condemns as irrelevant to justification or eventual salvation is works of the law, not good works. Good works are necessary for authentic Christian living since, as James tells us, faith without good works is dead (James 2:17).

Finally, what does the Bible as a whole say on the issue of faith and good works determining a person’s salvation? The entire Bible, from the Old Testament to John the Baptist, from the Gospels to Paul’s authentic letters, and from Hebrews to Revelation all are in support of James’ emphasis on the necessity of faith and good works for salvation. The preview of the Last Judgment given to us in Matthew 25 shows that it is based on good works.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-36, 40)

Today, James reminds us that faith without works is dead. Let us pray for the conviction, the courage and the means to translate our faith into deeds since, as Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.


24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

Homily # 1

In the Old Testament, there are some interesting themes  that are repeated over and over in book after book. One of those themes is the Messiah—the great one whom the Jewish people believed would some day come and lead them to victory over their persecutors. . A second theme is the Suffering Servant. Who was the suffering servant? A man or perhaps even a people who by suffering would be a kind of savior for the human race.

The people of the Old Testament never put these two themes together. Nor did the apostles and disciples of Jesus who were actually people of the Old Testament. They never thought there would be a single individual who would be both messiah and suffering servant. In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows that both images are fulfilled in him. He is the messiah, but he is also to be a suffering servant.     .

The scene that takes place in today’s Gospel happened about a year after Jesus began his public life. He had performed many miracles; He had cured people who were blind, deaf and lame, and even people who were lepers. It was natural that people would be curious about his real identity, curious about his goal in life. Everybody was talking about him.  And so he asked his apostles: “Who do people say that I am?” Isn’t it interesting that nobody thought he was a real live person. They thought he was one of the dead prophets who had been re-incarnated.  “Some say you are John the Baptizer, or Elijah, or another one of the prophets come back to life.”

All the more remarkable then, was Peter’s answer to the question. Without any hesitation he said, “You are the Messiah.” The one all of us have been waiting and praying for. And for the first time in his life, Jesus admitted it. Yes, I am the Messiah; but to keep them from thinking that he would lead an army to destroy the Roman rulers, he then told them clearly what was going to happen. I am the suffering servant. I will endure  pain.  I will be rejected by the chief priests and the scribes, and I will die a terrible death.

And here is where Peter, who had just made a brilliant observation, now makes the simple mistake all of us sometimes make. He tried to tell Jesus that he would not suffer crucifixion, because he was good. “After all, you are close to God; you have performed miracles; you have led a wonderful life; how could God possibly let you suffer?” And the answer of Jesus was “You are not judging by God’s standards, but by your own.”

How often that happens to us. We know someone who has been very close to God; then we see them suffer, we see them in pain, we see life ebbing away when they have so much to give. And we question what is happening. Sometimes we even complain to God and tell Him, “Lord you are making an awful mistake.” When we do that, it is well for us to read again this Gospel story; and it is well for us to remember the words of Jesus: “if you wish to come after me, take up your cross and follow in my steps…for whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Homily # 2

It’s very difficult to deny ourselves, isn’t it?  I mean, just look at how our politicians and advertisers try to appeal to our comfort.  “Vote for me and I promise to give you heaven on Earth”.  Or, “Buy my product and people will know that you have ‘arrived’.  Ugh!

Jesus, on the other hand, tells us that, to follow Him means taking up our cross—all of the time.  He doesn’t offer us an easy way out but, then again, Jesus also isn’t asking any of us to do something that He, Himself, hasn’t done first.

I’ve got two examples of people taking up their cross in their everyday lives.  Oh, maybe not with the greatest of joy, but it was still done because of their love of God and His Church.  The first on is from a young woman.

“My faith has made me the loneliest person I know.  Since I neither drink nor do drugs like so many of my friends, I don’t get invited to parties.  I made a promise to God not to have sex before I got married, so I’ve been dropped by too many guys.  I made the choice to be good because that’s what I think God wants and, as a result, I sit home every Saturday night”.  This young woman may have lost some of her social life, but she certainly isn’t jeopardizing her eternal life.

The second example is from a man in his late twenties who was an up-and-coming star in his company.

One day, is boss told him that his progress was so good that she was going to take him to a national convention.  This was so that he could get a good look at how things worked at the top and also so that he could meet some very influential people who could help him in his career.

Well, unfortunately, he got too good a look.  After the daily meetings, he noticed a lot of drinking among the executives and was urged to join in.  In addition, he was told to get a woman from the supply of those who had been hired for the occasion.

When he refused both, he got a clear message from his boss that this was not what was expected of an up-and-coming executive candidate.  When they returned home, his boss said that she was willing to overlook his strange behavior at the convention, if it would never happen again.

This young man replied to his boss that he wouldn’t engage in such activities under any circumstances.  When she asked him why, his straightforward answer was, “It’s because I’m a Catholic who tries to follow what God wants and not what the world wants”.  He wasn’t one of these holier-than-thou people.  He was just a good husband and father.  By the way, he was fired on the spot and still hasn’t found another job in his field.  This young man may have lost his joy but not his identity as a follower of Jesus.

So, as we can see, picking up our cross means having to make some very difficult decisions.  To truly deny ourselves means that never again will I choose what I want over what God wants of me.  That’s what Jesus was trying to get across to Peter when Jesus called him Satan.  Peter didn’t want to see Jesus die a horrible death on the cross.  And, believe me, crucifixion is a horrible way to die.

Peter just wanted to save his friend.  And, Jesus was tempted.  But, this time, instead of the devil tempting Jesus face-to-face, like he did in the desert, the devil tempted Jesus through the voice of a friend.  And, the temptation was a good one.  After all, who wouldn’t turn to a friend during times of trouble?

In today’s gospel, Jesus is talking about more than what we call self-denial.  Jesus’ definition of self-denial means more than just giving up something for Lent or going on a diet or having one less beer after work.

Jesus is talking about giving up our control over our own destiny.  He’s not talking about giving up going to college or trade school or working hard or taking care of your health.

Jesus is talking about abandoning all of the attempts we make to try and retain total control of our lives.  You see, life never really belongs to us in an absolute sense.  Life is a gift from God which is entrusted to us only for a limited time.

Most people, before their death, realize that they aren’t the masters of their fate and captains of their souls.  The ones who don’t realize this fact find only bitterness and discouragement as their lives go on.

When people drink too much or have sex outside of marriage or conduct shady business deals, they may think that they are saving their lives (or should I say ‘lifestyles’?), but what are they saving them for?  As Jesus has so clearly told us, they will lose everything.

People who spend their lives thinking only of their own profit or comfort or security are losing their life every moment of their search for these things.  But, people who invest their lives for Christ, like the young woman and man I mentioned earlier, are winning eternal life—the greatest gift of all.

There is only ‘One’ who can save our lives—for eternity.  But, He’ll only do it on the condition that we completely surrender control of our lives to Him and Him alone—right here and right now.  According to the gospel, that’s the only way that we can preserve our lives.

There is a name for this surrender.  It’s called faith.  And, our faith in Jesus must be personal.  For some of us, it will mean seeing ourselves in a more truthful way.  This means that we have to see how our own sins break Jesus’ Sacred Heart.  For others, the need might be the exact opposite; to see ourselves as being truly loved and truly beautiful in God’s eyes.

I wonder how many of us have done stupid and sinful things because we thought that we weren’t attractive or wanted by someone.  Satan has a field day when we think like that.  He’ll tell us that we shouldn’t have to suffer, that we deserve more.  He’ll say to us, “Come on, loosen up.  Who’s going to get hurt?  Have that extra drink.  Smoke that joint.  What’s a little fooling around going do?  No one will ever know.  Come on, live a little”.  Any of this sound familiar?

To follow God and live in peace and joy and happiness forever, we may have to lose our job and sit home on Saturday night.  But, God will honor you, if you honor Him.  Do it.  You will never regret it—eternally.  I promise.

Homily # 3

There is an interesting line in the gospel today, one that seems to get overlooked with allthe things going on. It reads: “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him…”

Let’s briefly replay the scene. Jesus asks Peter and the disciples to state who they think He is. They first answer with some popular opinions (such as that he is Elijah). Then Peter says he is the Christ. Jesus says not to tell anyone and then proceeds to describe what his future as Son of Man holds. At this point. Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. “Rebukes” is a pretty strong word – Peter didn’t just take Jesus off to the side and say, quietly and diplomatically, that he thought Jesus had the big picture of the Messiah thing a bit wrong. Peter “rebukes” him; he very forcefully tells Jesus that he’s got it all wrong, that suffering and death can’t be the end result of this journey, that Jesus needs to get his act together.

Peter says all this after witnessing events where Jesus cast out unclean spirits, cured Peter’s own mother of a fever, healed a paralyzed man, restored another man’s withered arm, calmed a storm at sea, brought a dead child to life, multiplied loaves and fish and fed 5,000 and made a deaf man hear. In spite of being with Jesus, listening to his words and seeing his actions. Peter just didn’t get it! When confronted with a Jesus who did not fit with the way he saw the discipleship deal working, Peter calls Jesus to task for saying what seem like foolish things. In a sense. Peter sees himself a fool for following someone with such foolish ideas.

Where would each of us be if we had been Peter at that moment? Would we bejust like Peter, telling Jesus that it makes no sense for him to be a savior who suffers and dies for us? Would we like to tell Jesus that it would work better if he would just do a few more miracles, preach a few more great sermons? Then, with a few more great events, surely everyone would recognize him as the Messiah!

We are called to be fools for Christ in our world.

The challenge we face from today’s scripture includes the understanding that living the Christian life demands that we make choices which may appear impractical and foolish according to human standards…and, that being a follower of Jesus may even mean that we are willing to share in his suffering and death.

In the early days of the church, a real physical death came to many who accepted this challenge. Now, the martyrs didn’t have to be martyred. After all, couldn’t they have just, for the moment, acknowledged the gods of the state and then walked away, alive, keeping the truth of their belief in Jesus Christ hidden quietly inside their minds and hearts?

Our faith, our commitment to Jesus, as St. James tells us in the second reading, has practical consequences. If it is not made concrete through works of practical love for our brothers and sisters, which may demand death to our comfort or position in society, it is lifeless.

There are kinds of death, other than physical death, that martyrs are called to.. .that followers of Jesus are to “foolishly” embrace. The challenge of commitment to Jesus forces us to take stands which appear foolish in the eyes of many.

.As you strive toward success, why not step on others? It’s the way the game is played. After all, if you don’t step on, you become the stepped on and people will take you for a fool.

.If you’re in a group and someone who assumes you all are alike, starts to tell a racial joke.. .what do you do? Do you quietly listen and keep the truth of your belief hidden quietly inside your mind and heart? Or, do you risk “social death” from the group and speak out?

Moments such as these occur throughout our lives. In big ways and small ways they happen to us. It all takes us back to a single question – can people recognize us as followers of Christ because of the lives we live?

Responding to Jesus’ question of “who do you say I am” is the first half of our faith. What we do in the reality of our lives as a result of that response is, as St. James would say, the rest of a living faith.

Homily # 4

“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer much, be rejected…be put to death….” – and Peter did not like that one bit!

Jesus didn’t mince his words: “Get out of my sight, you satan! You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s!” Being the first Pope wasn’t easy! Then again, being Peter wasn’t easy either!

What did Peter say to deserve such harsh words from the Lord? He simply wanted Jesus to avoid any suffering. He loved Jesus and could not stand the thought of Jesus’ being rejected and put to death. What’s wrong with that? If anyone but Jesus replied to Peter’s concern with such invective language, we would jump up and defend Peter. But this is the Lord speaking so we better take a closer look.

Peter thought that the promised Messiah would defeat Israel’s enemies; would restore the nation’s power and prestige; would bring about prosperity; would usher in an era of “good times.” But Jesus spoke of a future that included suffering and death as the road to resurrection and peace. And just to be sure that Peter got the message, he “hit him upside the head” with harsh words of warning. Maybe that was the day that Peter became a spiritual “adult.”

When is a person spiritually mature? Perhaps it is that day when you get up and say: “life is hard.” Life is difficult much of the time. Life involves suffering and rejection. In the first reading, we see that the “Good Man” of Isaiah understood this. He did not deny the suffering he faced; he faced it head on with the confidence that God was with him.

Why didn’t God create a world where all was at peace and death and suffering were unheard of? Well, he did. But he loved us so much that he created us in his own image. Therefore, Adam and Eve were created free. And with that freedom, sin and suffering and death entered into the created order. I guess God could have created a world like Disneyland but that wouldn’t be REAL. And God is REAL!

It doesn’t take a genius to see the lesson of the Sacred Scriptures today. More than ever we need to understand that life entails suffering — that love requires us to “die to self” to live for the other.

We live in a world that does all it can to deny the reality and the value of suffering. Many refuse to face their problems and attempt to distract themselves with work and hobbies. Some “medicate” their problems with alcohol and drugs. Many expend an incredible effort to keep from feeling the hurt of life.

We all have witnessed human disaster stories. Every family can recount stories of tragedies that would have been avoided if people had the sense and the courage to deal with the reality of their lives. Suffering that is not attended to will mount up and explode.

Isaiah’s “Good Man” did not turn back from life’s difficulties. Neither did Jesus. Neither should we.

Today, Jesus teaches us the necessity of taking up our cross, of facing up to the problems, difficulties and sufferings of our life. He will give us the courage and grace to deal with what comes our way.

By the way, Peter learned his lesson and learned it well. Fortified by the power of the Holy Spirit, he willingly faced the persecution that is an essential part of following the Lord Jesus. He led the early Church with great wisdom and gave his life as a testimony to his love of Christ. May we learn our lesson as well.

Jesus gives us the power to endure and promises to walk with us to the end. St. Teresa of Avila knew that. Here are her words:

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing frighten thee;
All things are passing,
God never changes!
Patient endurance
Attains all things;
Who God possesses
Nothing is wanting;
Alone God suffices.


24th Sunday Ordinary (B)/ Who Do People Say That I Am?
 Is 50:5-9a/ Jas 2:14-18/ Ps 116 / Mk 8:27-35Fr Bargas
      Class reunions allow us to see the whereabouts of our former classmates, to see how they make it after graduations. It is surprising for me to see some of our former classmates who did not excel much academics then, but are now doing great in different fields. They often say that “academic world” is different from the “actual world” where your creativity and talents will really be challenged.
Peter was correct in his “idea” of Jesus. He is the Messiah. But in terms of “real challenge” in the “real world of suffering,” he failed the test.


Today’s gospel passage gives us an account of the most critical turning-point in the public ministry of Jesus. It draws the line that cuts the whole Gospel of Mark into two. The first seven chapters revealed Jesus as the Messiah who showed the power of God by teaching and healing with authority. The climax of this first part of the Gospel is reached when Peter declares, “You are the Messiah,” in answer to Jesus’ question. Then, immediately, the second part of the Gospel begins to reveal what kind of Messiah Jesus will be. “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly.” Christ, the Messiah, is a Suffering Servant.


The first reading is taken from the second part of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, or sometimes called the Second Isaiah. It was written between 588 and 528 BC for people in exile. The People of Israel suffered much because they had been taken captives by the Babylonians. Yet, they knew that this was God’s punishment for their turning to pagan ways. The prophet says that a day will come when the sins of the people will be expiated and God will lead them back home. A Suffering Servant shall come who will take upon himself the guilt of the people so that he can suffer for them.


The answers of his disciples were not a simple guess. It has also a basis in the scripture. John de Baptist was considered a great prophet of their time. After he was beheaded, they thought Jesus was the incarnation of John. Elijah was last seen riding on a flaming chariot up to the heavens, and they thought that he will come back again before the messiah comes. And since Jesus was teaching with authority they thought he was one of the prophets. Only Peter got it right, He was the Messiah.


As I said, Peter made it right in first question but he can’t simply accept the second one, Christ’s idea of his own suffering and death. If he is the Messiah how can he suffer and die?Their idea of a Messiah was the one who would restore the Kingdom of Israel. He would gather the nation, lead a great army, and restore Israel’s former glory. He would be a descendant of David and retake David’s throne. What they expect was a great warrior who will destroy all their enemies in one shot. But Peter was surprised to know that this was not what they got. And when Peter insisted his own will, and tried to save Christ from the pains of death, he was called Satan.


To be called “Satan” in those days was not the same as what we understood today as “devil.” They were using this word to anyone (or to any ordinary person) whose personal view was opposed or not aligned with God’s will.


In the Second reading, James tells us that real faith is something that moves our heart into action; doing “good works” to other people. Many Christians know good theology (they know who Christ is) and learn good prayers in CCD, but they can not translate them into works of charity. This is a great challenge especially to the graduates of catholic schools. If faith is just stock up in the head, good works are not present then we are like Peter: who know the words but not its meanings.


Thomas A Kempis wrote in the Imitation of Christ that no one can escape the cross: “Either you will experience bodily pain or you will undergo tribulation of spirit in your soul.” Indeed it’s true, “Cross” in the form of sufferings and trials are realities in life. We can not escape from it. All of us are set to experience them. The only difference is that, some people cursed God and hates the world because of it. While others found deeper meaning in it. Real Christians should see them as a great privilege of being identified with Christ. To be with him in the cross means – to be with him in his glorious resurrection in eternal life.


Today’s young generation can hardly understand the word “suffering.” A little sacrifice might still be acceptable, but the idea of “total sacrifice” seems to be unreasonable nowadays. They failed to see that suffering is the best expression of ones love. Your first years of marriage may be so romantic. Without children you enjoy your presence with each other. But your sacrifice now with your kids is more meaningful than when you first married. If you sacrifice more now, then you are experiencing a greater love by now. You understand your spouse better because you are willing to accept him or her more than ever before.
        Christ’s question to his disciples was indirect and impersonal one, “who do people say that I am?”  But for Peter it is more direct and personal, “who do YOU think that I am?” And Peter answered according to what he experienced of being with him.We are also being asked today, the same direct question from a personal God, “who is Jesus for you?” If we have a personal experience with him in prayer, only then we can answer this question directly – from the heart.


Word Alive

No pain, no gain


September 11, 2009, 5:29pm

A man got married expecting to “live happily ever after.” After a couple of years, he was asked by the priest who solemnized his wedding how things were getting along.

* * *

“Father, I’ve found out there are three rings in marriage.” The priest was taken aback and asked what they could be. The man replied, “There’s an engagement ring, wedding ring, suffe-ring.” Someone added a fourth ring – “tiri-ring” if one of the partners is weird.

* * *

The funny story teaches that no matter how blissful marriage and life may be, there will always be some suffering.

This is what the gospel of this 24th Sunday is telling us. Jesus Christ said that the “Son of Man is going up to Jerusalem and would suffer grievously and be put to death” (Mk 8:31).

* * *

Peter recoiled at the thought, remonstrating, “Heaven forbid, Lord. This must never happen to you.”

Jesus exploded with a violence rarely seen of Him: “Get out of My sight, you Satan! You are a stumbling block to My path.” Imagine Peter being called Satan!

* * *

Jesus summarized Peter’s whole problem in one sentence: “You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.”

Man’s standards say, “Be comfortable; seek security; enjoy life.” How different are God’s standards! God shows in Jesus that real happiness comes through suffering. As the Marines would say, “No guts, no glory”; the Navy: “No pain, no gain”; and the security guards? “No ID, no entry!”

* * *

The trouble with many of us is that we identify happiness with “wine, women and song,” with a dream world devoid of pain and sufferings.

In his book The Secret of Happiness, American author D. Prager says, “I have often thought that if Hollywood stars have a role to play, it is to teach us that happiness has nothing to do with fun.

* * *

“These rich, beautiful individuals have constant access to glamorous parties, fancy cars, expensive houses, everything that spells ‘happiness.’

But these celebrities reveal the unhappiness hidden beneath all their fun: Depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, broken marriages, troubled children, profound loneliness.

* * *

“More times than not, things that lead to happiness involve some pain. As a result, many people avoid the very endeavors that are the source of true happiness-marriage, raising children, professional achievement, religious commitment, civic or charitable work, self-improvement.”

* * *

Just why God demands suffering is a mystery. Is God some kind of sadist seeing with some kind of twisted pleasure people in pain?

Think of the countless victims of calamities like the recent floods, particularly in Central Luzon. Or, the young or old ravaged by wasting diseases like cancer, renal failure or swine flu?

* * *

Indeed, there are inevitable sufferings. And all we can do, as my religion teacher used to advise, is: “Offer your suffering to God.” In doing so, you are “making necessity a virtue.”

The question is not that we suffer – because that’s inevitable – but how we react to it.

* * *

Does suffering make us bitter or better? Someone said, “Sometimes the Lord puts us on our back so we can look up to Him.”

If we can remedy our suffering, by all means let’s do it.

* * *

But if we cannot, then let’s accept it in the spirit of that serenity prayer by the German theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change, COURAGE to change the things I can, and WISDOM to know the difference between the two.”



Mistaken identity

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:11:00 09/13/2009

THE STORY is told about two old friends who met each other after a long time. Unable to remember the identity of his old friend, one of them said: “Gosh, I haven’t seen you in years. I can’t seem to remember – was it you or was it your brother who died?”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 8, 27-35) Jesus asks His disciples about His identity: “Who do people say that I am?” If identity were a matter of what others say, then there can be a lot of mistaken identity. That is why Jesus goes on to ask: “But who do you say that I am?” True identity is found not on what “they say,” for that is hearsay, but on what “I say.”

* * *

Beyond “they say,” and even beyond “I say,” Jesus points out today that true identity is what or who God says we are. Jesus praises Peter for his personal knowledge of Him, but rebukes him for objecting to His true identity to the Father as the Messiah who will have to be rejected and killed and rise again. The bottom line of identity is who or what God says.

* * *

How far simpler and convenient to rest our identity on public knowledge or even on personal knowledge. Like Jesus, we must learn to leave the crowd, and even those closest to us and ask Him, “Lord, what do you say? What do you ask of me?”

* * *

It is clear what God wants: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Often we’d rather please the crowd, or please our friends and loved ones, for they ask of us only so much, while God asks us our very life and heart! The crowd and people around us, we can control and manipulate, while God, we can’t.

* * *

It is a clear case of mistaken identity if we leave out the cross in our lives. If you think that Christianity is all about prosperity, bounty and blessings, you are wrong. There will always be sufferings and persecutions if we follow Christ. There is no complete happiness in this life. Those who never experience, or who shun the cross have a wrong notion about the Christian identity.

* * *

Those who have never gone through persecutions and trials, or who have never experienced the “dark night of the soul” have not really experienced the presence, the power and the love of God. Pity those who have money and power, and who have others at their beck and call. How wrong their identity and how false and fragile their security. In time, for sure, all these will crumble and fall.

* * *

Speaking of identity, the story is told about a priest who advised an old man to start thinking about the hereafter. To which the old man replied: “Father, I do that all the time. Wherever I am – in the kitchen, in the laundry, in the living room – I ask myself: Now what is it that I’m here after?” Indeed, what is it that we are after in this world and in our lives?

* * *

It would be good for the elected and government officials of our land to ask themselves again regarding their identity as public servants. Servants serve the master. Servants do not lord it over the master. Servants are not arrogant and do not belittle the master. Servants do not cheat, lie or manipulate the master. And finally, servants serve at the pleasure of the master, not vice-versa.

* * *

We are at peace with our identity when we accept with finality that we are not that good, but also that we are not that bad either. Yes, we are at peace when we stop pretending we are that good, but accept we are not that bad either.

* * *

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. We must, with hope, accept whatever cross comes our way, and believe that the cross will lead us to peace, healing, growth and victory. Instead of questioning or complaining, let us embrace the cross and say: “Lord, I don’t understand, but lead on, and take my hand.”

* * *

September 15 is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. As a woman, as a mother, Mary suffered many untold pains and sufferings, but she embraced the cross and stood by the cross of Jesus till the very end. Let us ask our Mother to help us to be strong, as we journey in this “valley of tears” confident and hopeful that our sorrows will turn into joy someday.

* * *

I would like to commend Capt. Noel Salandanan of PR 105 flight from San Francisco to Manila. Last September 9, he aborted our takeoff on the last minute when he saw warning lights on the brake system of the aircraft. We went back to the terminal and had the mechanical problem fixed. Flight purser Hilda Hubbard Bhagwani and the PAL crew also handled the situation very professionally and with personal touch. I thank them for bringing us safely home to Manila on Sept. 11, 2009. By being true to their identity and duty, they avoided a possible “9/11 incident” that day.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me that what matters most is not what others say or what I say, but what You say. Amen.


Word Alive

Let’s Make Our Sufferings Meritorious


September 14, 2012, 8:33pm

MANILA, Philippines — A lot of love stories end with the words: “And they lived happily ever after.” Is that really true? There’s a young man who got married expecting to get lasting marital bliss. After a couple of years, he was asked by the priest who had solemnized his wedding how things were getting along. He replied, “Father, I’ve found out there are three rings in marriage – engagement ring, wedding ring, suffe-ring.” (For other married couples, there could be a 4th ring – boxing ring!).

* * *

The subject of this Sunday’s gospel is about suffering. Jesus Christ said that the “Son of Man was going up to Jerusalem and would suffer grievously and be put to death” (Mk 8:31). Peter recoiled at the thought, remonstrating, “Heaven forbid, Lord. This must never happen to You.”

Jesus exploded with a violence rarely seen of Him: “Get out of My sight, you Satan! You are a stumbling block to My path.” Imagine Peter being called “Satan”?

* * *

Jesus summarized Peter’s whole problem in one sentence: “You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.” Man’s standards say, “Be comfortable; seek security; enjoy life.” How different are God’s standards! God shows in Jesus that real happiness comes through suffering. As we would say, “No guts, no glory”; “No pain, no gain”; “No cross, no crown.”

* * *

The trouble with many of us is that we identify happiness with “wine, women, and song,” with a dream world devoid of pain and suffering.

In his book The Secret of Happiness, American author D. Prager says, “I have often thought that if Hollywood stars have a role to play, it is to teach us that happiness has nothing to do with fun.

* * *

“These rich, beautiful individuals have constant access to glamorous parties, fancy cars, expensive houses, everything that spells ‘happiness.’ But celebrities reveal the unhappiness hidden beneath all their fun: Depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, broken marriages, troubled children, profound loneliness.

“More times than not, things that lead to happiness involve some pain like professional achievement, religious commitment, civic or charitable work, self-improvement.”

* * *

Just WHY God demands suffering is a mystery. Is God some kind of sadist seeing with some kind of twisted pleasure people in pain?

Think of the countless victims of calamities like the recent monsoon rains and floods. Or, the young or old ravaged by wasting diseases like cancer, renal failure, or AIDS?

* * *

It’s not just physical suffering, but also mental and emotional – the frustrations, the loneliness, the boredom of human existence.

Indeed, there are INEVITABLE sufferings. And all we can do, as our religion teacher used to advise us, is: “Offer your suffering to God.” In doing so, it becomes meritorious and not wasted.

So the question is not that we suffer (because that’s unavoidable), but HOW we react to it.

* * *

There would be less pain and misery, however, if people knew how to respect the rights of others, if they were less selfish, less greedy, and more concerned with others’ feelings; in short, if people live up to the teachings of their religion.


ANG BIDA NG BUHAY KO: Reflection for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B – September 16, 2012

Sa panonood ng pelikula ay nakasanayan na nating ang bida ang palaging panalo sa huli! Ayaw natin ang bidang naaargabyado at kinakawawa. Kaya nga kapag namatay ang bida sa katapusan ng palabas ay madalas nating sabihing “pangit ang ending”… malungkot sapagkat “namatay ang bida!” Isipin mo na lang ang ending ng “Expendables 2” na namatay sina Sylvester Stallone at ang kanyang mga kasama, KILL JOY hindi ba? Ayaw nating ang bida ay nasasaktan. Hindi tayo sanay na siya’y maghihirap at mamatay sa huli. Kaya nga patok si FPJ sa ating mga Plipino kasi sa lahat ng pelikula niya ay siya ang panalo. Ang bida hindi dapat nasasaktan at kung masaktan man, ang BIDA HINDI DAPAT MAMATAY! Ganito ang ating natunghayan sa Ebanghelyo. Ginawang “bida” ni Pedro si Hesus ng tanungin niya sila kung “sino ba siya sa mga tao.” Ibinigay ni Pedro ang tamang kasagutan: “Ikaw ang Kristo!” Ngunit nang marinig mismo ni Pedro sa bibig ni Hesus na siya bilang bida ay maghihirap, itatakwil ng mga pinuno ng bayan at mamamatay ay agad niyang pinagsabihan si Hesus. Hindi niya matanggap na ang kanyang bida ay mamamatay! Dahil dito ay napagwikaan siya ni Hesus: “Lumayo ka, Satanas! Ang iniisip mo’y hindi sa Diyos kundi sa tao.” Hindi ba’t kung minsan ay ganito rin tayo mag-isip tungkol sa Diyos? Sino ba ang Diyos para sa atin? Para sa marami ang ating Diyos ay ang “Diyos ng kaginhawaan!” Ang Diyos ang nagbibigay sa atin ng kasiyahan at kaunlaran sa pamumuhay. OK ang Diyos kapag maganda ang takbo ng ating buhay. Ayaw natin ang “Diyos ng kahirapan!” Kaya nga’t kapag nakaramdam na tayo ng kaunting kahirapan sa buhay ay nagbabago na ating pagtingin Diyos. Ang ating mga “aleluya” at “praise the Lord” ay napapalitan ng “Diyos ko! Diyos ko! Bakit mo ako ginaganito?” Tandaan natin: Ang ating Diyos ay hindi lang Diyos ng kaginhawaan ngunit Siya rin ay Diyos ng kahirapan! Kung ang ating Diyos mismo ay dumaan sa paghihirap, dapat tayo rin ay handang magbata ng anumang kahirapan sa buhay… matuto tayong magpasan ng ating mga “krus.” Kaya nga’t ibinigay niya ang kundisyon sa mga nagnanais na maging kanyang alagad: “Kung ibig ninumang sumunod sa akin, limutin niya ang ukol sa kanyang sarili, pasanin ang kanyang krus at sumunod sa akin.” Paano ko ba tinatanggap ang mga paghihirap na dumarating sa aking buhay? Isa rin ba ako sa mga ayaw makaramdam ng sakit at paghihirap? May mga taong tinatawag nating “pabigat” sa atin, paano ko sila “binubuhat?” Minsan ay may lalaking umuwi sa kanilang bahay. Ang una niyang ginawa ay hanapin ang kanyang asawa. Nang makita niya ito ay agad-agad niya itong bihuhat at isinayaw. Nagulat tuloy ang babae at nagtanong: “Dear, anong nangyari sa iyo? Hindi ko naman birthday. Lalo namang hindi natin anniversary. Anung nakain mo?” Ang sagot ng lalaki: “Kasi dear… nagsimba ako kanina at tinamaan ako sa sinabi ng pari. Ang sabi niya: ang dapat daw na alagad ni Hesus ay matutong magbuhat ng kanyang krus!” Meganun??? Sino ba ang mga pabigat sa buhay ko? Marahil ang asawa kong lasenggo, sugarol at babaero. Siguro ang kapatid kong mabisyo. Siguro ang anak kong pabaya sa pag-aaral. Siguro ang kapitbahay kong walang ginawa kundi ang magtsismis at manghimasok sa buhay ng iba. Siguro ang kaibigan kong traidor at manghuhuthot! Siguro ang teacher kong laging naninigaw at hindi marunong magturo… napakarami nating tinuturing na pabigat sa ating buhay. Sana ay ganito ang ating maging panalangin: “Panginoon, hindi ko pinagdarasal na tanggalin mo ang mga pabigat na ito sa aking buhay, bagkus bigyan mo ako ng lakas upang mabuhat ko sila ng may pagmamahal…” Sa ganitong paraan, kapag nagtanong si Jesus sa atin ng “Sino ako para sa iyo?” ay masasagot natin Siya ng “Panginoon, ikaw ang Kristo! Ikaw ang BIDA NG BUHAY KO!”


See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

Back to: Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

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