James 2: 14-24, 26 “…For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Psalm 112: 1-2, 3- 4, 5-6; “…Light shines through the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just.”
Mark 8:34-9:1 “…What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life?...”
Memorial of St. Andrew Bobola, S.J. (1591-1657) Polish Jesuit who was very successful in bringing whole villages of Orthodox people back into the Catholic Church. He was captured, brutally and beheaded by the Cossacks and Tatars at Pinsk. Much more about this saint, including a Pope’s writing, click here .
In today’s reading it seems we are getting some advice as to what to pay attention to in this world and what we’d be better off ignoring.
In the first reading from James, we are reminded to let good works accompany us on our Faith walk. The world surrounds us with many challenges including ways to help a neighbor who has lost a loved one. Or the many people we don’t know living inside and outside of our own communities who are facing economic loss and despair. With all of that need calling out around us, it is hard to imagine being able to ignore the cry and do good works. We know those needs never subside; Jesus said the poor will be with us always. If we listened exclusively we’d just be overwhelmed, so it is important to take these appeals to prayer; and ask God what needs some of our attention today.
An almost opposing look into what we receive from our world is presented in the Gospel today. Jesus says to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. For what does it mean to gain the ‘whole world’ and lose our lives in the process? When my crosses get heavy, I look to the world to soothe the ache and many times that can include going shopping. Now if you are a retailer, you’d say, what would be wrong with that? With all that advertising out there, it is so easy to fall into the buying trap. But the over emphasis of materialism in our culture is in stark contrast to helping those whose basic needs are not being met. It seems as though we’re being asked to look for our happiness by helping out others; instead of drowning out our sorrows with whatever means we use. Jesus says consider helping someone, do a good work. That choice has great potential to ease our pain too, for it will bring the type of happiness that has deep roots. The two themes though different, fit together nicely.
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