24th Sunday Homily in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: Being on the Side of God.
By: Fr. Luke Ijezie
Homily for Sunday September 12 2021
The readings of this 24th Sunday provoke us with the question of what it means to be on the side of God. Ordinarily, many people would take it for granted that they are on the side of God because they feel strongly about God and identify with one religious faith or the other. Sometimes the practical implications of such commitment are ignored or given less attention. But what does it really mean to be other side of God?
1. The question is most evident in the Gospel text from Mark 8:27-35. Peter must have been shocked when Jesus told him point black: ” Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God but of men.” But what could have merited Peter such opprobrium, such stern indictment, from a Master he evidently loved?
The simple reason is that Peter rejected suffering and tried to eliminate the Cross from the mission of Jesus. He didn’t see their relevance in what he thought was the glorious mission of Jesus. Even though he had earlier confessed the correct identity of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, he failed to reconcile it with the idea of suffering and being killed.
Jesus makes it clear that the best way to be on the side of God is to suffer for others, to suffer for the sake of truth and righteousness. In such readiness to suffer, one must not cling to one’s ego and one’s personal comfort. It is a difficult life, no doubt, but that is being on God’s side.
2. Another way of being on God’s side is explained in the first reading from Isa 50:5-9, which is part of the third of the four Servant Songs of Isaiah. According to the prophet, readiness to bear suffering and insult patiently in the course of his mission is the hallmark of a true disciple and a true worker for God. Because, he is on God’s side, he has the confidence that God helps him and will always vindicate him. So he can boast with confidence as he challenges his opposers: “Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty?” The greatest power is the power from the realisation that God is with us at all moments.
3. The Psalmist of Psalm 116 continues on the same track of helping us understand what it means to be on the side of God. Being on the side of God involves walking in the presence of God in the land of the living. What does it mean? The Psalm is a thanksgiving for one delivered by God from danger. He sees God as the one who rescues him in every situation. So his whole life journey is a journey in the presence of God, as he fears no harm. His strong attachment to God has kept him moving, as God has never failed him: “He has kept my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.”
4. The second reading from James 2:14-18 brings a more practical dimension to the question. Being on God’s side means having a faith rooted in good works. It means being on the side of the oppressed and the poor.
These readings invite us to reexamine our religious commitments and discover whether we are really working for God or working for our own ego and fame. Sometimes, religiosity easily becomes a means of enhancing our social standing even at the detriment of truth and justice. Once our actions are only dictated by what we gain and how others will honour us or speak well of us, then we are perhaps on the side of men and not on the side of God, however sweet or applauded our words may seem.
May God continue to guide us on the part of true religiosity in this highly hypocritical society! Fr. Luke Ijezie