22nd Sunday O.T (A)
JESUS REMINDS US OF THE NECESSARY CONDITIONS TO REACH HEAVEN.
- Summary of ideas of today’s Sunday readings
- Self-renouncement and carry Christ’s Cross.
- Losing one’s life for Christ’s sake in order to gain it. How to lose one’s life? God’s will be done, and not ours.
Today’s Gospel (Mt 16:21–27) narrates Jesus’ foretelling of His Passion, Death and Resurrection to His Apostles.
“Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
- This is in fulfillment of what Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets announced and experienced as they themselves suffered to be faithful to their calling to proclaim the Word of God (1st reading: Jer 20: 7-9).
“All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.”
Peter, who had just received the keys from Our Lord and given authority over His Church, out of his love for Jesus, took Jesus aside and with confidence rebuked Our Lord:
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Jesus energetically rejects St Peter’s well-intentioned protest, giving us to understand the capital importance of accepting the cross if we are to attain salvation (cf. 1 Cor 1:23-25) and continues:
“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 will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
- With these words, Our Lord emphasizes the importance 2 INDISPENSABLE CONDITIONS IF WE ARE TO FOLLOW HIM:
- IT IS NECESSARY TO DENY OURSELVES, TAKE UP HIS CROSS, IN ORDER TO FOLLOW HIM.
- HE WHO LOSES HIS LIFE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE WILL FIND IT. FULFILLMENT OF GOD’S WILL.
These are the indispensable conditions to be faithful followers of Christ. We, Christians, must not be afraid of the Cross and all that it entails (suffering, sacrifice, difficulties, tiredness), and to do God’s will instead of ours, which demands self-renouncement, for love’s sake and for our salvation, such that our life may be
“a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (2nd reading: Rom 12:1–2).”
We must bear in mind Jesus’ words on the necessity of denying ourselves = saying “NO” to our disordered tendencies = mortification, if we are to be his faithful followers.
- “There is no doubt about it: a person who loves pleasure, who seeks comfort, who flies from anything that might spell suffering, who is over-anxious, who complains, who blames and who becomes impatient at the least little thing which does not go his way — a person like that is a Christian only in name; he is only a dishonour to his religion; for Jesus Christ has said so: Anyone who wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross everyday of his life, and follow me” (St John Mary Vianney, Selected sermons, Ash Wednesday).
- Do we flee from the Cross and all that it entails: effort, sacrifice, suffering, difficulties, problems, tiredness, sickness…instead of embracing its manifestations and offering it to Our Lord?
- Do we easily complain, give in to anger, pessimism, despair or rebellion when Our Lord decides to share us the load of His Cross?
3. Losing one’s life for Christ’s sake in order to gain it. How to lose one’s life? God’s will be done, and not ours.
Loving presupposes total self-giving for the sake of the beloved. This is what Our Lord did on the Cross, identifying Himself with the Will of the Father, for our salvation, no matter what it takes. This is what Our Lords expects from each one of us as well: freely and lovingly accommodate our will to that of God. In this way, though apparently we are “losing” our life, it is the only way to “gain” it, the only path towards eternal happiness.
- Our Lord’s requirement means that we must renounce our own will in order to identify with the will of God.
- Let us not forget of our condition as creatures, elevated by God’s mercy, to be his children. As such, we have to ensure that Our Creator and Father’s Will be done, and not the other way around.
- There are those many people who “would have God will that which they themselves will, and are fretful at having to will that which He wills, and find it repugnant to accommodate their will to that of God. Hence it happens to them that oftentimes they think that that wherein they find not their own will and pleasure is not the will of God; and that, on the other hand, when they themselves find satisfaction, God is satisfied. Thus they measure God by themselves and not themselves by God” (St John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul, book 1, chap. 7, 3).
Our goal in life does not consist in “gaining the whole world,” in accumulating worldly goods; these are only means to an end. Rather, our last end, our ultimate goal, is God himself.
- Jesus shows the route to take to reach this ultimate destination — denying oneself (that is, saying no to pride, lust, laziness, selfishness… and attachment to temporal goods), taking up the cross, and fulfilling God’s will.
- Let us never forget that no earthly — impermanent — good can compare with the soul’s eternal salvation. As St Thomas rightfully expressed: “the least good of grace is superior to the natural good of the entire universe’’ (Summa theologiae, I-Il, q. 113, a. 9).
“God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that by deepening our sense of reverence you may nurture in us what is good and, by your watchful care, keep safe what you have nurtured. Collect, Mass proper.