“But who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29)

by Shiu Lan
Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 50:5 - 9A

James 2:14 - 18

Mark 8:27 - 35

In this Sunday’s Gospel Reading, Jesus asks his disciples this “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter answers “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29). Peter’s answer in the Gospel of Matthew is more elaborate “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter indeed has great faith! Jesus points out however that Peter’s perception is revealed to him by His heavenly Father and not by flesh and blood. With Peter’s profession of faith, Jesus institutes His Church on earth and appoints Peter as the head of His Church: “And I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church”, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18, 19). Peter is recognized by the Church as the first Pope.

Every time we attend Mass, we recite the Creed to profess our faith that we believe in every word of it including “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”, the Church that Jesus institutes. But what does faith in all these dogma and teachings of the Church have to do with my life? “Can faith save [me]?” (James 2:14). The answer is no, for “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead” (James 2:16).

Of course in this troubled world, there are plenty of opportunities for us to follow the advice of the second reading, to have “works”, by “supply[ing] the bodily needs” of the poor, marginalized, oppressed and all who are in need in one way or the other. At the same time, let us not forget that the culture of death is creating in the world new vulnerable groups that are being pushed to the limit and are in danger of being cast away – the unborn (abortion), the sick and the elderly with the possible inclusion of minors and the mentally challenged (euthanasia). Sadly, life is treated as a commodity that is to be thrown away once its best before date is due or when it does not meet the present day standards of perfection. It is time for us to look at our works in “supply[ing] the bodily needs” from a new perspective. What can we do? How can we help those who cannot speak and act for themselves: the unborn, the sick, the dying and those suffering from different kinds of challenges, physical or mental?