Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First reading: Is 50:5-9
Responsorial Psalm: 116:1-6, 8-9
Second reading: Jas 2:14-18
Gospel: Mk 8:27-35
By Kevin Perrotta | Catholic News Service
In our first reading today, a prophet speaks about his experience. It has been hard. The people to whom he has delivered God’s message have beat him up.
Who was this prophet? Apparently he was one of the Jews living in exile in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. Today’s reading and three other short sections of the Book of Isaiah are by or about him. They are sometimes called Songs of the Servant.
Ultimately, this “servant” was a prefiguration of Jesus Christ. But in his own time and place, he had a message from God for his fellow exiles which, it seems, they did not like.
What did he tell them? We have no way to know for sure, but here is a reasonable surmise.
The Jews were in Babylon (in present-day Iraq) because they had rebelled against the Babylonian empire and so the Babylonians had destroyed their homeland and capital city, Jerusalem. By the time of our unnamed prophet, they had been in Babylon for more than a generation.
How were they doing? Indications are that they were getting along OK. They had small farms, businesses, government positions.
How was their relationship with God? Certainly, some kept faith in him. Perhaps others were disillusioned. “God didn’t save us from our enemies. Why should we bother with him anymore?”
If the message of the servant was like that of the surrounding prophecies in the Book of Isaiah, he announced that God was now going to bring the exiles back to Jerusalem.
And so for this, they beat him up?
Well, think about it. Would you want to leave your home, your business, your job, and trek to a distant place you have never seen? For what? For the difficulties and conflicts that you would predictably encounter there? Why? For a God you felt had let you down?
It is easy to imagine some exiles’ response to this unnamed prophet: “Hey, buddy, keep your unhelpful suggestions to yourself!”
Do we find God’s invitations unwelcome? Sometimes they are disruptive. They take us out of our comfort zone. They call us into learning, work and service that will involve labor and loss and expose us to the risk of failure. Why would we do that?
Only if we trust the God who is inviting us and believe that his plans for us far surpass those we might construct for ourselves.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.