September 3, 2017 Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Last week –we heard the story of Jesus asking the disciples who they thought he was and his church that was built upon
him. This week our readings tell of Christ’s sufferings for his disciples and their sufferings for him.
Let’s begin by asking ourselves a simple question.
What is the way to glory and victory in the kingdom of God?
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
Jesus knew that the cross was the only way he could ransom us from slavery to sin with the price of his blood which was
shed for our freedom.
Jesus told his disciples that he must first suffer rejection, be crucified, and then rise again on the third day. He explained
that there could be no victory and no glory without the cross. Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death on the cross
caused his disciples great anxiety. Peter, who was often the first to react to whatever Jesus had to say, wanted to protect
Jesus from any threat or harm. That is why he rebuked the very thought of Jesus having to face rejection, condemnation,
and crucifixion.
This shall never happen to you, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD). “Peter was examining the issue by human and
earthly reasoning. He thought it disgraceful to Jesus as something unworthy of him. Jesus responded sharply, in
effect saying, ‘My suffering is not an unseemly matter. You are making this judgment with a carnal mind. If you had
listened to my teachings in a godly way, tearing yourself away from carnal understanding, you would know that this of
all things most becomes me. You seem to suppose that to suffer is unworthy of me. But I say to you that for me not to
suffer is of the devil’s mind.’ Jesus restrained him by the mention of the opposite, and by the severity of the reproof he
repressed his fear of suffering.” (excerpt from THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW, HOMILY 54.6)
Why did Jesus use the word “Satan” when he addressed Peter? We remember the story of Jesus when he went out into the
wilderness to prepare for his public ministry. Satan came to tempt him to follow a different path than the one chosen by
the Father. Jesus recognizes that Peter’s response is another temptation to seek a different and less costly path for
accomplishing his mission than the way of the cross. word “Satan” literally means “adversary” – one who stands in
opposition. Jesus reminds Peter that his role is not to be an adversary but a disciple – one who gets behind his Master to
follow with trust and obedience.
Through his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus defeated Satan who held us in bondage to sin and condemnation. And
Jesus defeated the power of death and overcame the grave through his resurrection. Through his obedience to his
heavenly Father, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience. His death on the cross won pardon for the guilty,
freedom for the oppressed, healing for the afflicted, and new life for those condemned to death. His death makes possible
our freedom to live as the adopted sons and daughters of the merciful Father in heaven.
Christ reveals his mind to his people gradually, and lets in light as they can bear it, and are fit to receive it.
From that time, when his disciples began to believe that Christ was the Son of God, then he began to show them a little
more of his mind. When he found them knowing in one truth, he taught them another; “for to him that has, more shall be
given.” The Book of Hebrews tells us, “Let them first be established in the principles of the doctrine of Christ, and then
go on to perfection, (Hebrews 6:1). All truths are not to be spoken to all persons at all times, but such as are proper and
suitable to their present state. If they had not been well grounded in the belief of Christ’s being the Son of God, it would
have been a great shaking to their faith.
Jesus told his disciples that they, too, must be willing to lay down their lives in order to gain new everlasting life with the
Father in his kingdom. There’s irony in what God asks of us. We lose what we gain, and we gain what we lose. When
we try to run our life our own way, we end up wasting it away. Only God can free us from our ignorant and sinful ways.
When we surrender our lives to God, he gives us new life in his Spirit and the pledge of eternal life. God wants us to be
spiritually fit and ready to do his will at all times. When the human body is very weak or ill, we make every effort to
nurse it back to health. How much more effort and attention should we give to the spiritual health of our hearts and
Today’ second reading from St. Paul uses a traditional image to evoke and give expression to what is the deepest
dimension of Christian life. Paul encourages us to offer our bodies, our selves, to God as a living sacrifice. He says that
this is the kind of worship that God asks of us, the worship that corresponds to our nature as spiritual beings made in
God’s image and likeness.
Paul affirms that what God wants from us is not things but our selves. We have come from God, we belong to God;
ultimately we and all creation will return to Him.
We are to give ourselves to God not only by worshipping Him in prayer but also by the way we live, by our efforts to do
what is right, just, and good. If we are to live in such a way, Paul says, we can’t simply be carried along by the concerns
and values of our contemporary culture. We need to discern God’s will for us, but in order to do that, our minds need to
be renewed.
All three of today’s readings suggest the energy and vitality, the struggle and effort involved in trying to live one’s life in
the presence of the living God. Our God is not distant but near. He is not a blind force but a personal reality, who calls us
into relationship with him.
In Baptism we are all graced with the gift of God’s Spirit and are invited to embrace a vocation involving a personal
relationship with God. This relationship is to be worked out in the midst of the concrete things and concerns that
constitute our everyday life. Everything we do brings us closer to God or drives us further away from him.
In the Eucharist we praise and worship God and seek his blessing. We open ourselves to the gift of Jesus and enter into
his act of self-giving love. In all of this we bring the hope and despair, the joy and sorrow, the success and failure, that
constitute our life. With them we bring ourselves so that our lives may be ever more truly a living sacrifice pleasing to
What will you give to God in exchange for freedom and eternal life? Are you ready to part with anything that might keep
you from following the Lord Jesus and his perfect plan for your life? Jesus poses these questions to challenge our
assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile in life. In every decision of life we are making ourselves a
certain kind of person. It is possible that some can gain all the things they have set their heart on, only to wake up
suddenly and discover that they missed the most important thing of all. Of what value are material things if they don’t
help you gain what truly lasts for eternity. Neither money nor possessions can buy heaven, mend a broken heart, or cheer
a lonely person.
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess.
You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your
will. Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556).
How do you discern God’s will? Does certainty about the will of God come suddenly? Can it emerge gradually? Do you
imagine you have made the decision and then check for feelings of consolation or desolation? Do you think Christ will
use your suffering for the salvation of the world if you unite yours with his?
“Lose your life for my sake and find it.” Dads and Moms making sacrifices for the good of the family; Young people
daring to follow their consciences, unafraid to go against the current; People renouncing their own interests to work with
immigrants, elderly, disabled, trafficked? All are examples of what it takes to, “deny himself, take up his cross, and
follow me.”
A true disciple gladly gives up all that he or she has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God. God
gives without measure. No sadness or loss can diminish the joy he offers. The cross of Jesus Christ leads to victory and
freedom from sin and death. What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day? When my will
crosses with his will, then his will must be done. Are you ready to lose all for Jesus Christ in order to gain all with Jesus