Homily (Reflection) for the Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year (A) (03rd September, 2017) on the Gospel
Jer 20:7-9;Ps 62:2-6.8-9. (R.v. 2);
Topic: …as God thinks (Matt 16:23).
Just last Sunday, Peter declared impeccably about Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). After that declaration, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go up to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed ….” (Matt 16:21). It was as if in the words of Saint Paul that Jesus began to feed His disciples with solid food and no longer milk (cf. 1Cor 3:2; Heb 5:12, 14). Peter immediately took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (Matt 16:22).
To understand better Peter’s reaction, we must remember that the apostles were seeing Jesus as a messiah who came to take over the government. Hence they asked in Acts 1:6, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Their faith in Jesus was principally based on their notion about Him. This manifested in Peter’s question, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Matt 19:27; cf. Mk 10:28; Lk 18:28).
Many today follow Peter’s example, rejecting every form of cross (suffering). However Jesus unequivocally stated in today’s gospel, “…If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:24-25).
Someone may ask, ‘What is this cross that Jesus wants His followers to take up while following Him?’ This varies from person to person. Just as God share the gifts of the Holy Spirit as He wills, so He shares crosses, cf. 1Cor 12:11. Being All-Knowing God, He has not forgotten that we are made of dust, cf. Gen 2:7. And being a faithful God, He does not allow anybody to be tempted beyond his/her strength, cf. 1Cor 10:13.
Despite the fact that everyone is rejecting every cross today, Cross in the Christian faith is not evil. We are to enjoy everlasting happiness on the condition that we first suffer with Christ, cf. Rom 8:17.
At the face value, Peter had a very good intention for Jesus. But in the real sense, it was an attempt to block the channel God prepared for our salvation. Jesus came into this world to redeem us through His suffering, death, and resurrection, cf. 1Jn 2:2. 4:10; Rev 1:5. Hence, He replied Peter, “… Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Matt 16:23).
In today’s gospel, Peter was like citing the prophet Isaiah, “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper, and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, says the LORD” (Is 54:17). In as much as this passage among other similar ones is very true because they are God’s words, but can anyone claim to have grasped their full meaning? Blessed Job has this to say considering all we know about God in Job 26:14, “These are indeed but the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?” Saint Peter cautions, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation” (2Pt 1:20).
Jesus recognised the devil coming through Peter because He knew why He came to the world. It is unfortunate that many of us do not know or remember why they are in this world. Jesus queried in today’s gospel (Matt 16:25), “For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?”Our Penny Catechism summarised why we are in this world in four clauses, To know God, to love God, to serve God, and to live with God in the world to come.
A lot of things we pursue in this world at the expense of our souls lead to nowhere. “In 1923, a high level meeting was held in Chicago’s Old Edgewater Beach Hotel. Nine of the most powerful people in the United States were there. The included the president of the nation’s largest steel company, the nation’s largest gas company, the nation’s largest Utility Company. Twenty five years later, where were these powerful tycoons? Three had died penniless, three had committed suicide, two were in prison, and one had gone insane.”
In the words of Saint Paul, Christians always carry in their body the death of Jesus (cross), cf. 2Cor 4:10. No need running away like Jonah, cf. Jon 1:1-3. It is better to look for God’s will not ours. In everything including the cross, “God works for good with those who love him” (Rom 8:28). What God prepared for the elect in the world to come cannot be compared with the sufferings of this world, cf. 2Cor 4:17; 1Cor 2:9; Is 64:4. We can do all things in Him who strengthens us, cf. Phil 4:13. We conclude with a warning from Saint Paul, “If you sow to your flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit” (Gal 6:8).
Bible Reading: Job 26:1-14; Rom 6:15-23; Gal 6:1-10.
Thought for today: Look for the will of God.
Let us pray: Let us pray: God may we always think as your children and seek for only those things that are pleasing to you – Amen.
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