Monday, September 1, 2014

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A (Aug. 30, 2014)

First reading: Jer. 20: 7-9

“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.  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.”

Second reading: Rom. 12: 1-2

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as 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.”

Gospel reading: Mt. 16: 21-27

“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.  The Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, ‘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.’
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wishes to some 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 everyone according to his conduct.”

Introductory theme summary:
The theme common to all three readings this week addresses the demands of serving God’s will.  In the first reading we have Jeremiah giving his account of the difficulties he faced in his prophecy as well as the impossibility of him resisting God’s call to serve him.  In the second reading Paul gives us the instruction that we are to become living sacrifices for the Lord, and in the gospel reading we receive the conditions for discipleship by which we actually accomplish becoming so.

Considering so many people choose to apply their faith as the means for accomplishing a personally fulfilling life in time rather than strive to follow the conditions set forth for becoming a disciple of the Lord, many people are clearly either not hearing or responding to this call.  With the gospel message clearly indicating the necessity of accepting suffering and hardship, self-sacrifice and even loss, as an essential part of practicing Christianity faithfully; how acceptable is it, really, to use one’s faith in this world to obtain personal fulfillment in this life?  I suspect it isn’t acceptable at all.

Our Lord said; “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it.”  I can’t help but think of all those people whom our society celebrates for their remarkable achievements in the world: such as star athletes and famous actors for examples.  Even if they have faith in Jesus Christ, when applying these words of the Lord's, they will have to lose the lives they sought for themselves in this world in order to enter eternal life.  What then will they be?  Because the little ones are the greatest in the kingdom, they will be the greatest in eternity, not the great ones.  Will the egos of those great ones accept such a humble eternity in relationship to the greatness of the little ones?  Or, will they choose their pride over God and damn themselves?  As Paul said, “Their glory is in their shame.” (Php. 3:19)[1]
Don’t be seduced by the glories of the world.  They will only result in an eternity of regret!

[1] Php. 3:18-19 “For many … conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction.  Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.”  Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

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