24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
September 12, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.











Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of your mercy,
grant that we may serve you with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Is 50:5-9a

The Lord GOD opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
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.

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.
He is near who upholds my right;
if anyone wishes to oppose me,
let us appear together.
Who disputes my right?
Let that man confront me.
See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will prove me wrong?

Responsorial Psalm Ps 116:1-2,3-4,5-6,8-9

R. I will walk before the Lord, in the land of the living.


I love the LORD because he has heard
my voice in supplication,
because he has inclined his ear to me
the day I called. 

The cords of death encompassed me;
the snares of the netherworld seized upon me;
I fell into distress and sorrow,
and I called upon the name of the LORD,
"O LORD, save my life!" 

Gracious is the LORD and just;
yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD keeps the little ones;
I was brought low, and he saved me. 

For he has freed my soul from death,
my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord
in the land of the living. 

Second Reading Jas 2:14-18

What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone says he has faith but does not have works?
Can that faith save him?
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?
So also faith of itself,
if it does not have works, is dead.

Indeed someone might say,
"You have faith and I have works."
Demonstrate your faith to me without works,
and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

Alleluia Gal 6:14


Gospel Mk 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that I am?"
They said in reply,
"John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets."
And he asked them,
"But who do you say that I am?"
Peter said to him in reply,
"You are the Christ."
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

He began to teach them
that the Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed, and rise after three days.
He spoke this openly.
Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples,
rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
"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."

Reflection Questions

  1. What are you hoping to hear these days?
  2. What works of faith are evident in your life these days?
  3. Who is the Christ to you at the present time?

Catena Nova

What does it mean to take up one’s cross? Bearing every annoyance patiently. That is following Christ. True, many fears and afflictions confront us in this world; but if we follow Christ, we shall reach a place of perfect happiness, perfect peace, and everlasting freedom from fear....Would you follow Christ? Then be humble as he was humble; do not scorn his lowliness if you want to reach his exaltation....Two feet are needed to run along this highway; they are humility and charity. Everyone wants to get to the top—well, the first step to take is humility. Why take strides that are too big for you—do you want to fall instead of going up? Begin with the first step, humility, and you will already be climbing. When someone begins to follow his way of life and his commandments, that person will meet resistance on every side. He or she will be opposed, mocked, even persecuted, and this not only by unbelievers but also by people who to all appearances belong to the body of Christ, though they are really excluded from it by their wickedness; people who, being Christians only in name, never stop persecuting true Christians....Endure injuries, do not be overcome by them (Caesarius of Arles).

Let us then learn from the Cross of Jesus our proper way of living. Should I say ‘living’ or, instead, ‘dying’? Rather, both living and dying. Dying to the world, living for God. Dying to vices and living by the virtues. Dying to the flesh but living in the spirit. Thus in the Cross of Christ, there is death and in the Cross of Christ, there is life. The death of death is there and the life of life. The death of sins is there and the life of the virtues. The death of the flesh is there and the life of the spirit.… It was fitting, that we, who had fallen because of a tree, might rise up because of a tree (St. Aelred of Rievaulx).

Jesus has many who love His Kingdom in Heaven, but few who bear His Cross (Luke 14:27). He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share His feast, but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, but few are willing to suffer for His sake. Many follow Jesus to the Breaking of Bread, but few to the drinking of the Cup of His Passion. Many admire His miracles, but few follow Him in the humiliation of His Cross. Many love Jesus as long as no hardship touches them. Many praise and bless Him, as long as they are receiving any comfort from Him. But if Jesus withdraw Himself, they fall to complaining and utter dejection. They who love Jesus for His own sake, and not for the sake of comfort for themselves, bless Him in every trial and anguish of heart, no less than in the greatest joy. And were He never willing to bestow comfort on them, they would still always praise Him and give Him thanks. Oh, how powerful is the pure love of Jesus, free from all self-interest and self-love! (Thomas À Kempis)

The Cross is the supreme scandal not because on it divine majesty succumbs to the most inglorious punishment — quite similar things are found in most religions — but because the Gospels are making a much more radical revelation. They are unveiling the founding mechanism of all worldly prestige, all forms of sacredness and all forms of cultural meaning. The workings of the Gospel are almost the same, so it would seem, as workings of all earlier religions. That is why all our thinkers concur that there is no difference between them. But in fact this resemblance is only half the story. Another operation is taking place below the surface, and it has no precedence. It discredits and demonstrates all the gods of violence, since it reveals the true God, who has not the slightest violence in him. Since the time of the Gospels, mankind as a whole has always failed to comprehend this mystery, and it does so still. So no empty threat or gratuitous nastiness is involved in the text’s saying exactly what has always been happening and what will continue to happen, despite the fact that present-day circumstances combine to make the revelation ever more plain. For us, as for those who first heard the Gospel, the stone rejected by the builders has become the permanent stumbling block. By refusing to listen to what is being said to us, we are creating a fearsome destiny for ourselves. And there is no one, except ourselves, who can be held responsible. Christ plays this role for all who remain scandalized by the wisdom embodied in the text. His role, though understandable, is paradoxical, since he offers not the slightest hold to any form of rivalry or mimetic interference. There is no acquisitive desire in him. As a consequence, any will that is really turned toward Jesus will not meet with the slightest of obstacles. His yolk is easy and his burden is light. With him, we run no risk of getting caught up in the evil opposition between doubles (Rene Girard).

All four Gospels show a clear understanding that Jesus must suffer (Matt. 16:21; 26:54; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; 17:25; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44; John 3:14; 12:34). We see two reasons behind this “must”: so that the scriptures be fulfilled, (the “theological” reason), and because of the nature of the human order (the “anthropological” reason). Where it might be possible to read the necessity of fulfilling the scriptures as suggesting that there is some divine plan to kill Jesus, the tendency of Jesus’ own interpretations of this “must” is always towards the anthropological subversion of this understanding. The Gospels do not attempt to attribute this “necessity” to anything in God: when Jesus in his apocalyptic discourse(s) indicates that “all these things must come about,” he is referring to the cataclysmic convulsions of the human order which must not distract the disciples from their attention to the coming of the Son of man precisely as crucified and risen victim. The word dei (“must”) in these contexts has a quite specific meaning: it refers to the necessity to which the human order, based on death, is in thrall. What enables Jesus to point this out is the willingness of divine gratuity to allow itself to suffer the consequences of this human order precisely so as to free it from the realm of the necessity of death (James Alison).

The biggest problem of waxing eloquently about carrying our crosses is that we overlook the danger, the likelihood, of being crosses for other people. We easily fool ourselves into thinking we are not persecuting others as long as we aren’t pulling beards or driving nails into someone’s hands and feet. But, in his epistle, James shows us how easy it is to be a persecutor. He says that the tongue, small as it is, is a fire that can set a whole forest ablaze and it even “sets on fire the cycle of nature.” (Jas. 3: 5–6) We both bless and curse others with this little member. (Jas. 3: 10) James is warning us how the contagion of collective violence such as that afflicted on Isaiah’s Servant and Jesus can afflict anyone by the agency of anyone through such use of the tongue. Language, the sign of civilization, is compromised from the start by its role in persecution. The more “civilized” we become through writing, the printing press, newspapers, the Internet and Twitter, the more quickly and efficiently peoples’ reputations are destroyed by firestorms set off by the tongue and its extensions the pen and the computer keyboard. Instead of boasting about carrying crosses, we most need to busy ourselves with relieving others of the crosses we lay on them....Otherwise, our witness against persecution is likely to turn into persecution of the persecutors. This is why we can only take up the cross if we renounce using it as a weapon but rather use it as a Tree of Life for others. (Abbot Andrew Marr).

It is to the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it (Hans Urs von Balthasar).


Who Do People Say You Are?

            “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself, sit in the electric chair, and follow me.”  “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny herself, enter the gas chamber, and follow me.”  Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny himself, hang from a noose, and follow me.”  “Whoever wishes to come after me, must deny herself, be lethally injected, and follow me.”

            No, this is not a homily on the death penalty.  I’ve updated Jesus’ words in the hope they might shock you in much the same way they stunned Peter, making him take Jesus aside and begin to rebuke him (cf. G).  In fact, the  word “cross” has lost much of its shock value, its power to offend us.  We’re so used to seeing a beautifully-carved cross carried in procession, or worn around our necks in silver and gold, or waved in blessing, that its gripping horror no longer affects us as it did Peter, well-acquainted with the torture and shame the cross represented.

            Which is not to say the cross can’t provoke contemporary Christians to a Peter-like reaction.  This was brought home to me at a meeting I once attended for Catholic preachers.  We were having a group discussion about how to handle controversial topics when all of a sudden a woman, whose patience ran out, rose to announce, in the words of St. Paul, “I preach Christ crucified. (1 Cor. 1:23)  And that’s all I think we should do as Christian preachers.”

            Well!  You’d think she spoke the most offensive blasphemy possible.  “What do you mean, preach Christ crucified?--came the reaction from the group.  That’s been the problem with Catholic preaching for centuries: it’s been too negative, too focused on pain and suffering, too much about the cross and not enough about the resurrection!”

            Now I admit her intervention bothered me too.  But the more I listened to these preachers crucify this woman, the more I thought of another passage from Paul, where he complained about those who conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. (Phil. 3:18)

            So you see, that little word “cross” can still stir up a hornet’s nest, just like it did the first time it entered the Christian vocabulary; and Jesus, looking at his disciples, spoke to Peter the harshest words he ever used: Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do (G).

            What then shall we make of the cross?  One thing’s for sure: we don’t want to make our faith a somber affair, nor Isaiah’s vision the program of Christian life: 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 (I).  I don’t know about you, but beating and plucking, and buffeting and spitting, aren’t my idea of good news.  And yet, the prophet says he’s speaking to the weary a word that will rouse them (I).

            So we ask the question, “What in the cross can rouse the weary?”  Maybe it has something to do with that business about “saving one’s life.”  There’s something which could rouse a weary person; something that sounds like good news.  After all, who doesn’t want to “save” his or her life?  Who among those poor people on 9/11 whose anniversary is this week would not have given everything they had to save their life?

            Isn’t everything we do an effort to save ourselves from loss of one sort or another?  Whether that be loss of health or income, of home or possessions, of family or friends, reputation or social standing.  These are the things which make up our lives; without them we’d be lost.  And they’re the things, should you ever wonder about yourselves -- Who do people say that I am? (G) – they might well refer to in response.

            And yet, like Jesus when he asked that very question, you too might judge such a response inadequate.  You might think you’re more than those things; that you’re someone others might not even suspect -- someone who might even shock a few people should they learn who you really are; someone who might prefer that those who do have an idea about who you really  are not speak of it to anyone else.

            Which brings us back to the cross.  For if we ever did let go of the person others think we are, or think we should be, and let the self we keep hidden emerge, so the whole truth about us be known, without any care if others object, then we will have lost our life in order to find it (cf. G).  Then we will have taken up our cross, and followed Christ.

            Such a moment of truth could indeed rouse the weary; those tired of human ways of judging; tired of being only who people say they are, rather than who God says they are, who God calls them to be.

            Which led Jesus to [suffer] greatly, and [be rejected] by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and. . .killed (cf. G).  So he might rise after three days (G).  To the life he shares with all who bear a cross of integrity and truth.  Who lives and reigns, forever and ever.  Amen.



Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli)

To the Lord God who always helps us, let us pray in the name of Jesus, God’s servant.

That all who confess Jesus as Messiah may take up the cross and follow Jesus by sacrificing themselves for the sake of the gospel.

That as the voice of Peter in God’s church, Pope Francis may lead us by example to set our hearts not on human insight but on divine wisdom.

That those who set their faces against this world’s injustice may confront worldly powers with the unconquerable witness of truth.

That those who experience society’s rejection and persecution may be vindicated by the God of justice who hears their cry.

That those who face insult because of race or ethnic origin may stand up for their human dignity.

That the hungry and homeless may find in the hearts of Christians a faith that manifests itself in practical care and concern for their needs.

That those who work in business and finance may find courage to bear witness to honesty and integrity above human profit.

That those who are without clothing and lack daily food may be respected by this community as brothers and sisters in faith.

That we may find strength in our celebration of the Eucharist to deny ourselves and bear witness in love to Christ and the gospel.

That this community’s profession of faith in Jesus the Messiah may take flesh in practical works of charity for all those in need.

That the departed whose lives on earth were spent in the service of Christ may follow Christ now to the salvation promised in the gospel.     

Make us one, O God, in acknowledging Jesus the Christ. As we proclaim him by our words, let us follow him in our works; give us strength to take up the cross and courage to lose our lives for his sake. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord. Amen (ICEL; 1998).



Come follow me, said Christ the Lord,

All in my way abiding;

Your selfishness throw overboard,

Obey my call and guiding.

Oh, bear your crosses and confide

In my example a your guide.

I am the Light, I light the way,

A godly life displaying;

I help you walk as in the day,

I keep your feet from straying.

I am the Way, and well I show

How you should journey here below.

Then let us follow Christ the Lord,

And take the cross appointed,

And, firmly clinging to his word,

In suffering be undaunted,

For those who bear the battle’s strain

The crown of heav’nly life obtain.

Lord’s Prayer

In a spirit of faith, we pray to God as Jesus taught....

Spiritual Communion

Lord Jesus, we have professed our faith in you as the Christ of God.  In the same faith, we have been baptized into the mystery of your dying and rising.  It is a cross for us this day not to be present for the memorial of your death and resurrection.  We trust nevertheless that this deprivation does not mean you have abandoned us, but are still present within us through the Spirit of life, and that you will restore us once more to the communion of our sisters and brothers in the household of faith.



 Closing Hymn (John Michael Talbot)

Take up your cross
and follow the way,
the way of Jesus Christ;
His yoke is easy,
His burden light:
Our resurrection song

Whoever seeks to follow Me
must deny his very self,
take up his own cross every day
and follow in My steps.

What can you show,
who gain the world
when you lose your soul instead?
Be not ashamed of the Son of Man
and he’ll raise you from the dead.