Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 19 Ordinary Time

& archive, Year B.

Lord Jesus Christ,
You call us to come
To be with you,
And to learn trust, faith.
By your Spirit help me
To see you,
To hear your voice in the midst of trouble.
Help me to follow you in all of life,
To walk in the joy and freedom of the resurrection,
Indwelt and led by your Pentecost Spirit.

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 19 in Ordinary Time

As our lectionary guide invites us to listen to the scriptures, which circle around the gospel passage for this week, the subject of voice – who and what is spoking – speaks from within these pages, and draws our attention in the narrative.

Psalm 19 calls us to awareness and to listening — to how creation speaks, and what God’s handiwork says from day to day and night to night in the heavens and all through the earth. All that God’s creation speaks tells of one vast reality: the glory of God. Within and behind all of creation God’s glory hovers and shines.

The gracious ways of Jahweh, the law of the LORD, also speak. As we hear and allow God’s way to speak deep into our tired paths and habits of living, we are surprised as our soul is revived, we receive wisdom, joy spills across our heart. How we see also changes – we begin to see as God sees. We discover that this voice and word of God are enduring, to be trusted, and become life-changing as it speaks into the dark places of our own interior. Now the deepest desire within us can surface as our more surface, shallow wants and desires are revealed for what they are, and, like the psalmist, we find ourselves desiring God’s way and voice more than anything else – even money.

It is to Simon Peter’s distorted thinking and desire that Jesus speaks (Mark 8:27ff). Peter has just confessed his belief that Jesus is the Messiah, and in Matthew’s account of this conversation, Jesus then tells Peter how blessed he is, because “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:17) But when Jesus goes on to say what road he was about to take – through great suffering, rejection by the religious leaders, and finally death, then resurrection – Peter is totally against any such news, and takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. Now this disciple who has just spoken what God has revealed to him is in turn rebuked by Jesus: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

There is this mix within each of us: our desire for God, and our desire for self-preservation which can be infiltrated by sin and larger evil. Simon Peter and the other disciples expected Jesus to be the triumphal Messiah who would end the Roman occupation of their land and nation, restore the throne of David by being a righteous and just monarch, and so bring Israel into the place of being a world power – with peace and justice for all. They were still fighting among themselves about who would be the next-in-power to Jesus as King. Hence Peter’s rebuke. But Jesus saw behind Peter’s words, into the heart.

In his letter to the Jewish believers, scattered throughout the Roman empire, James offers guidance for these early followers of Jesus about the words they speak (James 3:1-1-2). In verse 11 he offers the illustration of a spring and asks, “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?” Probably not. But the source of a spring can become muddied and contaminated. And it is out of this mix that Peter speaks what is revealed to him from God, and then what is not of God.

It is into this mix within us that Jesus speaks. It is out of this mix within us that the psalmist offers us words to pray:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Finally, it is God who steadies us and rescues us from what holds us captive and contaminates the life spring within us. God alone does that work of cleansing. We are invited to listen, to turn our thoughts and heart toward God and God’s voice for guidance. That is our spiritual discipline. Isaiah 50:4-5a.

Prayer before reading:

Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us
In the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Help me to be aware of how you come,
To be hospitable to your help,
To your patient work of helping me hear
With the ears of my heart.
Lead me in your Way.

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Week 19 in Ordinary Time

9/10 Monday: Mark 8:27-30
9/11 Tuesday: Mark 8:31-38
9/12 Wednesday: Psalm 19
9/13 Thursday: Isaiah 50:4-9a
9/14 Friday: James 3:1-12
9/15 Saturday: Mark 8:27-30
9/16 Sunday: Mark 8:31-38