Sunday Bible Readings, September 12, 2021: Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Is 50:5-9 Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9
2) Jas 2:14-18 Gospel: Mk 8:27-35
We must trust the messages of God
In our first reading today, a prophet shares his experience. It was difficult. The people he delivered God’s message to beat him.
Who was this prophet? Apparently he was one of the Jews living in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC. Today’s reading and three other short sections of the book of Isaiah are by or about him. They are sometimes called Servant’s Songs.
Ultimately, this “servant” was a prefiguration of Jesus Christ. But in his time and place he had a message from God for his fellow exiles which, it seems, did not please them.
What did he tell them? We have no way of knowing for sure, but here’s a reasonable guess.
The Jews were in Babylon (in what is now Iraq) because they had rebelled against the Babylonian Empire and so the Babylonians had destroyed their homeland and their capital, Jerusalem. At the time of our anonymous prophet, they had been in Babylon for over a generation.
How were they doing? Indications are that they got along well. They had small farms, businesses, government posts.
How was their relationship with God? Certainly, some have kept faith in him. Maybe others were disappointed. “God did not save us from our enemies. Why should we still bother with him?
If the servant’s message resembled that of the surrounding prophecies in the book of Isaiah, it announced that God would now bring the exiles back to Jerusalem.
And so for that, they beat him?
Well, think about it. Would you like to leave your home, your business, your job and go to a distant place you’ve never seen? Why? For the difficulties and conflicts you would foreseeably encounter there? Why? For a God who you think has let you down?
It’s easy to imagine the response of some exiles to this anonymous prophet: “Hey, mate, keep your useless suggestions to yourself!”
Do we find God’s invitations unwelcome? Sometimes they are disruptive. They take us out of our comfort zone. They call us to learning, to work, and to service that involves work and loss and exposes us to the risk of failure. Why would we do that?
Only if we trust the God who invites us and believe that his plans for us far exceed those we could build for ourselves.
Perrotta is the publisher and author of “Six Weeks with the Bible” series, teaches part-time at Siena Heights University, and leads pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.