Today’s readings and Gospel could leave one feeling mighty flat…no miracles, no rousing call to action, no hosannas shouted from the rooftops.
Just several admonitions, almost stern in their nature, certainly not the kind that make us gird up our loins and set out to slay dragons
No, there is the vision, almost a promise, of hardship, suffering, abuse, fear. Even the Psalm is tainted with what may look to be a useless promise of eventual life with the Lord. But in the meantime, we’re going to feel all the slings and arrows that are arrayed against us.
Whew! Now what’s the good news?
Well, the good news, the Gospel, is subtle today. We know we’re in for pain and hardship because we’re in the midst of it almost every day. All we must do is open our eyes, remember the past month, read or listen to the news. The Gospel tell us, however, that while the task ahead may be hard, the way to get going is simple: deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
OK, so, again, what’s the good news?
It’s a simple message today, and we should really stop asking for something good to happen to us. Do we always have to be in a position where everything is sweetness and light? Especially in our era, when we demand instant gratification, the big score, the magic pill, we’re going to find today’s readings unsettling, even uncomfortable.
Perhaps the message of Jesus is that we have to grow up. He says it specifically when chastising Peter and the Disciples: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Maybe the whole purpose of Salvation History is to help us grow from infant human beings to mature people of God. And the readings today are setting the stage for how we are to get there.
Isaiah: Listen to God and then stand steadfast in your beliefs, even against physical retribution.
Responsorial Psalm 116: When you are afflicted, call on God, not necessarily to save you from pain, but to keep you, unstumbling, on the road to salvation.
James: You really can’t just talk the talk. You have to do something. You have to demonstrate your faith by giving those who need them the necessities of the body.
Galatians (Alleluia): Don’t be smug about all you’re going through.
Mark: Accept your fate, listen to and believe in Jesus, and above all, be ready to put all aside if necessary to save your life, even your life itself.
No, today’s readings are not for the feint of heart. But there permeates them this clear message that the world of childish magical thinking is only for children, not for anyone who is maturing into a Person of God. And hard as it may seem when we finally face it, acceptance of the word of Jesus is, in the end, solace enough for us…if only we can get to that state of mind. And really, we do know how to get there, don’t we?
Let us pray: Lord, help us to walk before you today, and always, in the land of the living. That’s all we ask today.