Isaiah 50:5 - 9A
James 2:14 - 18
Mark 8:27 - 35
When WWII was still in a dead heat between the Allies and the Axis, and Nazi persecution of the Jews was running rampant in the European continent; Emilio Zolli, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, was sheltered in the Vatican by Blessed Pope Pius XII. During that hiatus, the Chief Rabbi learned much about the Catholic faith from the Pope. But what really convinced him to finally accept Jesus as the Messiah anticipated by all the prophets and laws of the Old Testament were the “Servant-of-the-Lord” oracles in the book of Isaiah, including the first reading of this Sunday which is the third of the four oracles. He found the oracles’ amazingly accurate, vivid, and detailed descriptions of Jesus’ Passions absolutely convincing and irrefutable. So what did he do? After the war, he converted to become a Catholic and took the Pope’s first name, Eugenio, as his baptismal name out of gratitude to the Pope!
Such is the power of the Scripture. The Gospel reading of this Sunday taps on this power by drawing our attention to the suffering, death, and resurrection awaiting Jesus, the Servant of the Lord who must do the will of the Father and die for us, as Isaiah and other prophets have predicted.
Noticeable, if not shocking, are these words of Jesus that form the conclusion of the Caesarea Philippi discourse: “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” (Mk 8:35). The words mark a new phase of the gospel – Jesus’ coming suffering and death – and reaffirm Isaiah’s Servant-of-the Lord oracles, the way Jesus’ every word and action reaffirm everything that the Scripture has said about him….