Dear Fellow Parishioners,
James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem long after the other disciples had dispersed throughout the known world, kept a firm hand on the quarrels and disputes going on among his flock. His Letter to them could very easily be applied to us here in Australia when he condemns anyone “who has never done a single good act but claims he has the faith”. He tells them, and us, in no uncertain terms “If any of the brothers and sisters is in need and you do nothing, Your Faith (without works) is dead!” He wants us to understand that Faith is not just intellectual assent to the revelation of Christ, but impels us to love, appreciate and care for our neighbour, particularly when they are poor and suffering. We are meant to follow St. James’s example: “I will prove to you I have faith by showing you my good deeds” – especially as they are expressed in compassion and generosity towards those most in need.
Peter’s faith, in the Gospel reading, was called into question by Jesus. Here was the head of the Apostles quite happy to acknowledge Jesus was the Christ, but it shocked him to learn that the consequences of such faith was that he forget himself in order to find his true identity in service to others - very like the suffering servant in the 1st. Reading who “made no resistance, neither did I turn away” knowing that God would be his support through all the insults heaped upon him.
It is here that we find the key to the whole Christian message, that we will not be saved from suffering and death (which is the lot of our mortal existence so that not even Jesus was saved from such realities), but, by following Jesus along that path, we find we have been plucked “out of” death and suffering and have come to share in new horizons of Resurrection glory. As Jesus tells us, “Anyone who loses their life for my sake and the sake of the Gospel, will save it”. An amazing thing happens when we entrust ourselves to his love and care in the way we experience that he is with us helping us carry our cross in order that we may do the same for those around us who may be suffering in similar ways.
Once we have surrendered to His love we gain strength enough to take up our cross and carry on even when our own resources fail us. Jesus wants to be with us in such a way that when we lose ourselves for his sake he will help us carry whatever the burden might be so that we remain free and not victims of our circumstance. “The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults”. In this wayJesus can help us because he Himself experienced how God had turned his ear to his appeal when he was helpless so that He now walks with us in the presence of the Lord leading us into the land of the living.