24th Sunday of Ordinary Times

Ah, close enough for government work. Many of us have heard that expression or maybe spoken it ourselves at times. We use it to express our willingness to settle for something not being of the excellent quality we know we could produce. It connotes that our effort is slipshod, cheap, and halfhearted. When we use that expression, we say our effort is not something we are proud of producing but good enough to meet the basic requirements.


Success in life calls for us to do more than just enough to get by. If we want to live a worthwhile life, we need to produce beyond the most basic requirements. We desire to give more commitment to our marriage than just enough to avoid divorce. We want to be happy and to make our spouse happy. We know that to have good marital relations, we need to give them time and effort. A good marriage requires hard work.


In our careers, we want to give more effort than just enough not to get fired. We want to learn new skills, be productive, and feel a sense of accomplishment. At school, we desire to learn more than just enough not to flunk out. We want to develop a probing mind and understanding of our subject matter.


We have so many areas of our life that demand our time and energy. Trying to do enough to excel in so many phases of our lives can cause us to develop a sense of being overwhelmed. We can generate feelings of frustration and guilt. We become haunted by feelings of inadequacy because we feel we aren’t doing enough in some facet of life. We believe that way because enough isn’t the right goal for life. Focusing on doing enough in so many different areas of life is the wrong goal and not the true purpose of life.


Mark’s Gospel tells us today where our focus must go if we are to enjoy a good life without the stress of trying to do enough in all its different aspects. Mark wrote:

Now Jesus and his disciples set out from the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?


Everywhere Jesus went, people, found him fascinating. He taught with authority. When Jesus spoke about God, they felt as if Jesus had a close relationship with God. He healed people who were sick with physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. Jesus performed miracles like multiplying loaves and fish. He showed compassion to outcasts and sinners. There was a great deal of buzz among those who observed Jesus. People speculated and talked among themselves, trying to figure out who Jesus might be.


Some people believed Jesus to be John the Baptist. John had a significant following, and Herod the Tetrarch arrested and executed him, but some people doubted that or thought John had returned from the dead. Many thought Jesus was the prophet, Elijah. Some Jews believed that Elijah, an ancient prophet, would return from heaven as the forerunner of the Messiah. Other groups of Jews thought another of the former prophets would be the herald of the Messiah. They imagined Jesus might be carrying out that role.


Jesus listens to the apostles recite all these possibilities and then asks them, “But who do you say that I am?” He was asking them; you have been even closer to me than the people in the crowd. You have experienced everything I have done. So, who do you think I am? Do you believe I am the Messiah?


Like the Apostles, Jesus asks us that question today. It is a question we must answer in two ways. We have to ask the question objectively. Objectively means we ask ourselves have I experienced Jesus in my life and the world? Have I observed Jesus’ miracles, healings, compassion, and mercy? Then we have to ask that question on a personal level. Do we believe Jesus is the Messiah because we have a personal relationship with him? Is Jesus our Savior who, by sacrificing for us, has led us away from sin and suffering and into a closer bond with God? We need to ask ourselves, is Jesus my Lord? Do I count on Jesus to be my patron who protects me and supports me when I am in need? This question is the most important question we’ll ever be asked. How we answer is the key to our life. If you aren’t a very religious person, I’m glad you are here. My goal and the goal of the Church is to create an environment where you can consider this question.


Unsurprisingly, Peter was the first Apostle to answer Jesus’ question about who they believed him to be. Peter states his response clearly and unequivocally. He says,


“You are the Messiah.”


Jesus cautions the apostles to keep silent about their beliefs. They need to be quiet because they don’t yet fully understand what it means for Jesus to be the Messiah. At the time of Jesus, many people expected the Messiah to come as a strong military or political leader who would overcome Isreal’s enemies and make them a mighty nation.

Jesus told Peter and the apostles:


He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly

and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,

and be killed, and rise after three days.


Peter doesn’t want to hear this and tries to change Jesus’ mind. Jesus tells the crowds:


Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

take up his cross, and follow me.

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.


When all we do is focus on doing enough in life, we lose sight of what Jesus says is the purpose of life. The true meaning of life is to imitate Jesus. It is to follow his example of being obedient to God’s will for us, to take up the cross. Taking up the cross to do God’s will isn’t a spectator sport or a business transaction.


In today’s reading from the Letter of James, we heard,


So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Faith must be put into action. Following Jesus must bear fruit. It can’t be empty words. Faith in Jesus is putting our lives in his hands and releasing ourselves from the anxiety of always trying to do enough. If we follow Jesus, married life will be fulfilling, and our careers will satisfy us. If we give up focusing on ourselves, our will, our way, Jesus will lead us to a place where life will give us more than enough.


In this time of the pandemic, the church needs to develop new ways to take up the cross and follow Jesus. Pope Francis has called for a synod in 2023. The theme of the bishops and laity gathering will be “For A Synodal Church: communion, participation, and mission.” Francis hopes it will “inspire people to dream about the church we are called to be, to make people’s hope flourish, to stimulate trust, to bind up wounds, to weave new and deeper relationships.”


Here in our own country, our bishops are in the process of writing a pastoral letter on the Eucharist. They are planning to make the Eucharist the center of their efforts to renew the Church. On the diocesan level, Bishop da Cunha is about to release his pastoral letter, Journeying Together: with Jesus on the Path of Faith and Hope. Our parish also must plan to rebuild and renew in the wake of the pandemic.


How we as the Church address the question of a post-pandemic Church, internationally, nationally, and locally will answer the question, “Who do you say that I am?” It won’t be easy, but it is simple.


Peter proclaimed Jesus as his Lord and Savior as long as things were going well. Then in the High Priest’s courtyard, he denied Jesus three times. He was nowhere to be found as Jesus was nailed to the cross. Today we stand at the moment of the cross. Do we run away, or do we stand beside Jesus and continue to profess him as our Lord and Savoir? Today we are called to continue proclaiming our faith in Jesus as the Messiah with increased dedication and more humility.


When I first came to Holy Redeemer five years ago, there was an attitude that doing just enough was sufficient. Just doing the minimum was acceptable. Going through the motions was good enough. I called you to a higher standard. I called you to take up the cross and imitate Jesus. I caught criticism for that position. I have pressed on and kept going. I have tried to lead this parish onward to embrace the need for continued renewal and rebuilding as we try to be more faithful to God.


We can’t wait until this pandemic is over to start rebuilding and renewing our faith. At Holy Redeemer Church at 44 Highland Avenue in Chatham, we need to pledge to rebuild and restore our faith. We’ll do that by making our relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the center of our lives. We’ll do that by loving our neighbor as ourselves and inviting others to become disciples too. We’ll renew our Church by making Jesus our leader, shepherd, and guide. When Jesus is the center of our lives, we can finally know the satisfaction of doing enough. We will see the joy of the fullness of life.


We are about to enter the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is the part of the Mass when we celebrate Jesus’ desire to come to share with us His Real Presence. Now Jesus is about to share with us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. Jesus comes to give us God’s grace, God’s power to believe it is in Jesus that we have enough to live the fulness of the life God shares with us.