Homily for XXII (22) Sunday Year A. 30-08-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm: Psalm 62 (63): 2-6, 8-9
Second Reading: Romans 12:1-2
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27
Our minds are drawn today to an often times forgotten Christian truth, or better said that it is a truth we always want to forget. That is, the strange world of false denial when we refuse to accept what we know is obviously true. We like Jeremiah the prophet of successful failure, when we heed the Lord’s call it is often because His seduction overpowers us with love and zeal to work for Him just like newlyweds in love with each other are ready to do anything for each other. However, there comes a time that despite the initial irresistible zeal, when confronted with challenging situations we are tempted to surrender. For Jeremiah, the more he fervently ministered, the greater the opposition he faced. But the more he desired to give up because of hardship and opposition, the stronger the zeal he had to forge ahead. This is the paradox of success in God’s economy. We lose what we gain and gain what we lose. Therefore remaining faithful to our Christian vocation amidst all the challenges would make us appear to the world as a failure but in truth before God we are recording huge success. These challenges become the cost of discipleship, the prize we must pay for the success achieved in the name of God.
The life of Our Lord Jesus Christ was not an exception. Only last Sunday He made Peter the foundation stone of His Church. Immediately after that, He begins to make it clear to His disciples that He the Christ must first suffer, be put to death and rise from the dead in order to fulfil His mission as the Christ and the Son of God. Indeed success has a prize! He would save the world but not without a prize. Peter thinks otherwise today and he is being rebuked as ‘Satan’ for standing in the way of God. Jesus quickly reminds him that his position is not to be an adversary but a disciple who gets behind his master to follow with loving trust and obedience. Like the apostles, Jesus wants us to realize that even if we have tasted happiness today because of our achievements and success, we must not forget that we are not immune from misfortunes and in fact, adversities await us down the road. His way is the way of the cross. Just as there is no free lunch in Freetown, Jesus wants us to know that the greater the success achieved for Him, the greater the prize to pay that awaits us. As it is in the way of the world, so also it is in the spiritual life. Following Him is never going to be a permanent rose garden. If He did not substitute a water bed for His cross, He will not do so for us either. We cannot therefore separate the Christ from the cross nor His crown from the thorns. That is our path when we choose to follow Him, no matter how much we deny it.
Christ’s formula is glory, suffering, death, and resurrection, but the human tendency in us always wants to eschew suffering and death, and just move from the state of foreseeing glory to the actual glory of the resurrection. This was Peter’s thinking and this is our thinking too, the thinking of the world. The way of the world is hedonistic, inclined to seeking pleasures and at all costs trying to avoid pain. This is the world in which we excuse every of our wrong doings under different guises. We abandon the way of virtue because we see it as burdensome. It is a world in which people do anything today and claim that it is the acceptable way of doing things. Father, but our society permits it! What does it permit? Selfishness - that we always think first of our gain and ourselves and call it pragmatic wisdom. Pride – that we become egoistic and narcissistic and call it high self-esteem. Rebellion - that we become insubordinate and call it independent mindedness. Immorality - that we can indulge in illicit affairs, live promiscuous lives and justify it by calling it sexual freedom. Wickedness - that we can become inhuman to ourselves, kill others including the innocent unborn children and call it our right, our choice. Misotheism - that we can hate and attack believers, refer to them with derogatory names such as ‘Jesus freaks’, be intolerant of others’ faiths and call ourselves areligious and free thinking atheists.
Unfortunately, this is our world, the world God created but where God is not wanted anymore; a world that wallows in darkness without realizing it. A world that is hell-bent on reducing Christianity to a meaningless minority. It is this same world that Christ came to save and St. Paul in the same vein cautions us, ‘do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modelled by your new mind.’ We Christians though born here do not belong to this world because by our baptism we have been immersed into a new world, the society of Christ. Each of us is a key part of this new society because there are people in each of our lives who look to us to illuminate their darkness with the Light of Christ. Are you letting the light of Christ in you illuminate those around you?
To do this we must therefore offer ourselves as a holy sacrifice truly pleasing to God by doing His will all the time. We must be ready to part with anything that is keeping us from following Him, our sinful ways, so that His light can shine in us and attract others to Him. By this, we can say we are heeding His invitation to renounce ourselves and take up our crosses to follow Him. Surely when we embark on this, we lose to the world but gain in heaven and like St. Paul we can count all our loses as gain when Christ comes to reward us in His glory (Phil.3:7). May He give us the grace to carry our crosses patiently yet with great faith and follow Him faithfully on the rough path to the end. Amen.