St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 + Luke 9:18-22
September 23, 2022
There is an appointed time for everything ….
Today’s First Reading is one of the Old Testament options for a Requiem Mass. The first two-thirds of the passage are striking, as the phrase “a time to…” is proclaimed repeatedly. Taken together, all these descriptions of times in a man’s life stand in contrast to the immortal life than one enters after his death. This passage can stir something profound in the hearts of those attending a Requiem Mass. They may leave the church pondering how the “times” of their own earthly lives fit into a larger picture.
The first sentence of today’s Gospel passage shouldn’t be overlooked in this regard. “Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with Him.” This might seem like an odd statement, perhaps even contradictory. But from the larger canvas on which all four Gospel accounts are drawn, we see several portraits of Jesus as one who prays intensely, at length, in solitude, and often. That His disciples were with Him doesn’t mean that they were all engaged in prayer together, but that they had the occasion to witness Jesus in this intense, solitary prayer with His Father.
The point of this first sentence within the context of today’s Gospel passage, however, is heard in what Jesus says next. “Who do the crowds say that I am?” After they offer the view of the crowds, Jesus asks, “But who do you say that I am?” After they give their own view, Jesus offers His view of His own identity. This portrait of Himself as the “Suffering Servant” who will be raised on the third day was most likely the content of His prayer moments earlier. There is no doubt about Jesus accepting this call from the Father. But the disciples’ reactions show that most of them could not accept Jesus as someone called to suffer, much less accept such a call themselves. We might make an examination of conscience, asking if we ourselves are like these disciples.