24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 50.5-9 | Psalm 116 | James 2.14-18 | Mark 8.27-35
What does it mean to have faith? In our post-modern society, a time when technology and scientific empiricism have such a strong influence on us all, faith seems to be a throwback to an earlier, simpler time. Today we demand evidence to back up our claims. Anything less than what we can see with our eyes or touch with our hands is to be disregarded or, at the very least, kept to ourselves. Where does this leave religious belief.
In the Gospel today Jesus asks Peter to make a statement of faith, “Who do you say that I am?” People were talking about Jesus and comparing him to people they already knew, one of the former prophets. They were trying to fit Jesus into a box that they could point to and make sense of. Peter steps out on a limb and gives Jesus a new name, “Christ”, the anointed one. Peter had little evidence for this claim it was an intuition, a feeling based on experience. Call it what you want.
Despite Peter’s intuitive leap he really was only half way there. It’s one thing to make a statement of faith but it’s another to live out of it. When Jesus told Peter what his mission would entail, that it would mean suffering and dying Peter reverted back to ordinary human rationality, criticizing Jesus for his irrational thinking. Peter’s faith could not sustain him to understand the depths to which Jesus would go to prove his Father’s love.
We don’t need empirical evidence to have faith. Faith is a gift from God which we call grace. God fills our hearts with desire for himself and our response to that desire is faith. The evidence comes in the outcome, in what our faith allows us to do. In the letter of James we read that faith is shown not by words but by our actions. If we believe in Christ then we will act according to that belief. “Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”.