Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sister Sharon McMillan
September 12, 2021
Mark 8: 27-35
“Behold the daughters I will give you in the Institute which will be marked by my cross” (Jesus’ words to St. Julie, found in the Constitutions of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, n. 4). At the recent Jubilee celebration of the East-West Unit, we had the joy of seeing such daughters, and celebrating their lives given over to “prayer, compassion, suffering, and action” (n. 28): Ruth and Lucy, Geraldine and Mary, Carolyn, Bernie, Margaret, Andrea, Nancy, and Liz: a total of 650 years as Sisters of Notre Dame! In awe and in profound gratitude, we beheld those daughters surrounded by sunlight reflected through the bright colors of the Belmont Chapel windows, surrounded by the images of women of the Bible, especially Mary, and of St. Julie, and Dorothy Stang. We beheld those daughters, also marked by the cross, who found their lives by surrendering them.
In today’s Gospel, Peter has grasped what he believes is the full reality of Jesus’ life, and he doesn’t hesitate to answer, for all the disciples, Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ!” But his deep faith is quickly shaken when he finds himself shocked and deeply disturbed to hear Jesus explain what that title truly means: Jesus the Christ is God’s Servant who must “suffer greatly and be rejected, and be killed.” Peter is determined to do all he can to prevent that part of the reality from ever unfolding.
To think as God does and not as human beings do means to surrender to God’s invitation to save one’s life by losing it, to take up one’s cross and follow Jesus in the mystery of discipleship. Peter and the other disciples grasped this truth in the light of the resurrection; our 10 Jubilarians grasped this truth countless times throughout their lives; we disciples were plunged into this truth at our baptism, and are also invited to live it, even when it means being “marked by the cross.”
During this Jubilee, it is my privilege to sing the litany of the saints as the Jubilarians prepare to renew their vows together. The saints mentioned in the litany include some canonized women and men, but also names of those deceased Sisters of Notre Dame
whose lives of surrender were significant to the Jubilarians: Joseph Marie (novice director to many), Helen Benedict (beloved Provincial), Margaret Hoffman (social justice advocate), among others. I also have the joy of taking “cantor’s privilege” to add names of other Sisters when the Jubilarians’ list doesn’t fill all the spaces: Helen Dugan (embodiment of God’s delight), Veronica Skillin (wisdom figure), Mary Clare Sanchez (Catholic Schools Superintendent in Los Angeles where her Sister, Carolyn, still ministers). “All you holy men and women, pray for us.”
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny herself, take up her cross, and follow me.” Thank you, beloved Jubilarians, for taking up your cross moment after moment, in joy and in suffering, in darkness and in light, when the cross was heavy and when it was light. Thank you for the gift of your lives, given so unselfishly, so that we too might trust that these words of Jesus will be fulfilled in us.
Mark 8: 27-35
Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.
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. He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “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.”
The Gospel of the Lord