Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
As we follow through the Gospel of Saint Mark we come to an important turning point this week: after the preaching, the miracles and the journey so far, Simon Peter publicly recognises Jesus as the Messiah. But there is an important point, which is brought out by the choice of first reading today: this Messiah is a king who is destined to be rejected and killed. Jesus knows this very well, and rebukes Peter when he tries to lead him on a different path. From this point on, Saint Mark’s Gospel leads to the cross: Jesus himself accepts his own cross, and reminds all his followers that the cross is a part of following him. If we are considering the question ”Who is Jesus?”, these scripture passages give us a deep insight into the mission of salvation that he accepts for us.
Notes for Readers
First Reading: Isaiah 50:5-9
This reading would be more familiar in Lent or on Good Friday than at the beginning of September, but it is here for a purpose. Have a look at the Gospel, where we see Jesus recognised as the Messiah – the Promised King. It is important for the disciples to realise what kind of king he is, and for us too: this is why the church offers us this part of the “Song of the Suffering Servant”. As a reader, it should be fairly easy for you to get the Good Friday associations in your mind – just ensure that the listeners can pick up the same resonances. It can seem as though this reading comes out of nowhere: just read quietly and gently and the message should get through.
Second Reading: James 2:14-18
Saint James is always practical and to the point – and today is no exception! He is always good at giving examples which illustrate very vividly the way in which the Gospel is to be lived out. This makes the reader’s job a lot easier, since you are not just delivering concepts, but practical examples. Saint James here begins with a rhetorical question: make sure you let it hang in the air for a moment so that the congregation can consider it. When reading the word “I wish you well …” make sure that people can hear it is a quote, but avoid over-acting. Be careful with the last paragraph – the phrase “faith and good deeds” appears three times, and as always with passages like that it can be very easy for a listener to lose track of what is being said: make sure you try it out loud, to get the right emphases and pauses.