Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

September 11, 2015

The First Reading for this Sunday, September 13 is Isaiah 50: 4c-9a. You may remember this reading from Holy Week. In this reading the Suffering Servant has given his back to those who beat him, his beard to those who ripped out his hair, his face to those who spit on it.

In spite of this awful treatment, the Servant sees God as his help. He looks the perpetrator in the eye and will not be disgraced. He sets his face straight ahead, like flint, like stone, and will not be put to shame. God is near to him and upholds his truthfulness; He will prevail against anyone who confronts him. God is his help and no one will prove him wrong.

The Gospel: Mark 8: 27-35 has Jesus asking His disciples who He is. He is not Elijah, John the Baptist, or one of the prophets. Peter finally comes forward with the awesome response: “You are the Christ.” But, ah, not so fast.   He is not the “Christ” that they expect. Jesus would identify with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. He would suffer, He would be rejected, and his own people would kill him. And He predicted He would rise on the third day. He knew who His Father was. Peter didn’t. None of His disciples did.

And many times we don’t either. Our following of Jesus can so often be an ever-so-sweet relationship that does not include the cross. We, like the disciples, kind of like the healings and feedings and miraculous walking on water. We like the singing and shouting and feel good sensations that come from an emotional “high” that we get while in church with our brothers and sisters. That’s all well and good, but it is nowhere near what our following of Jesus should be all about.

James (2: 14-18) hits us right in the head with his message to us today: What good is it if someone says they have faith, but do nothing with it? James says that faith cannot save us. And he gets very specific: “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 says that faith, even faith that seems to move us into rapture, is dead, if it does not have good works. Powerful and yet, so often ignored by the very folks who are loudest and most emotional in their proclamation of faith.

Look around you. You don’t need 20/20 eyesight to see the hunger and nakedness and abject poverty of so many of our sisters and brothers. Our “solidarity” with them, our reaching out to them, will seal our loving relationship with Jesus. Let us set our face “like flint” and not be turned back from giving our lives, our possessions, and our love to those who are in such desperate need today. We can find out in a few minutes how to work with Catholic Relief Services, our own diocesan Catholic Charities, our own parishes, and yes, those walking poor that ask you for help on the street corners and intersections of our cities.   You, I’m sure, have seen the pictures of our Syrian sisters and brothers fleeing for their lives. You have seen or certainly heard about your sisters and brothers in this country losing their homes, often without food and healthcare. We need new eyes, new hearts, and new ways to lose our lives for the sake of the gospel. No one should ever think that their relationship with Jesus is anything but service to others.

“Whoever wishes to come after me (love me, cling to me, be with me in life) 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.”

Can we set our face straight ahead like flint and be faithful to the Gospel? If we lose our lives for others, especially for the hungry and ill clothed, we will save it. No turning back, no turning back.