The 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – 03 September, 2017
Lectionary readings: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63:2-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16: 21-27
Jeremiah never wanted to be a prophet. He protested to YAH that he was too young. But he was sent to a nation in crisis, to an audience that rejected his message. This passage finds him disillusioned, angry and filled with self-pity. He shouts his lament before God. He sees himself as tricked by God and yet there continues to be a fire burning within him to call the people to repentance despite his personal scorn. His prophetic role is one that continues to the present day when people speak truth to power and are rejected or scorned. Prophetic voices that call for justice, faithfulness, inclusivity and compassion are often not welcomed.
Paul’s letter to the Romans continues with urging the people to ongoing renewal and discernment as to the call of God to faithfulness and truth. This is addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Christians as a pattern of life to be embraced by all believers. As Jeremiah saw that sacrifice was meaningless unless there was repentance and faithfulness to the covenant, Paul teaches that our entire way of life involves sacrifice. God is all merciful and we are called to renewal of minds and hearts in order to participate in the newness of creation through the Pascal Mystery of Christ.
The gospel this week takes us on a path from Peter being the foundational rock on which to build the church, to an obstacle ( skandalon), a stumbling stone causing others to trip as he and the disciples are shocked and distressed from hearing Jesus’ teaching about suffering and death. It is the first prediction of his passion. Jesus can see that his mission would entail suffering and perhaps death.
These predictions are written however AFTER the fact and in light of the Resurrection. Jesus’ talk of his decision to go to Jerusalem to face those who are out to destroy him is untenable to Peter. Jesus rebukes his friend, even calling him Satan! He tells Peter he must get behind him and take up his cross and follow him. It is a challenge that continues to all followers of the Christ. Jesus has confidence that he would be vindicated by his Abba God. We see similar situations with various prophet people who recognize that their journey may lead to death and yet feel called to proceed. An example would be Martin Luther King, Jr. going to Memphis, TN when he knew there were those who hated him. He went anyway and was murdered. Bishop Oscar Romero spoke out about the injustices of the government in El Salvador and paid the price by his untimely death….as did the Church women who followed him later in 1980 in El Salvador as they worked for justice for the poor. The promise of Resurrection and life that continues with our merciful and all loving God gives courage and hope to those who face the “terrors of the night”. Psalm 63 brings comfort in knowing that God’s kindness is a greater good than life, that despite my thirst, I will be filled with the riches of a banquet and your right hand upholds me.
For reflection and discussion: What message “burns in your heart” and gives you a sense of urgency to share it with others? No matter where you live in this world, the cries of the poor and disenfranchised can be heard and seen on a daily basis. What is a Christian to do? The Cross seems to overwhelm. Where do you get your strength and courage to continue to follow behind the Christ?
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Mary Louise Chesley-Cora, MAT in Religious Studies
Hockessin DE USA
Bat Kol Alumna 2001
[Copyright © 2017]
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