Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – 30 August 2020
Lectionary Readings: Jer 20:7-9; Ps 63:2-6. 8-9; Rom 12:1-2; Matt 16:21-27
Theme: Take up your cross and follow me
What if our introduction to Jesus Christ was just the Gospel passage of today? I would certainly have decided to shop around for a less demanding religion. Most people hearing only this about Jesus for the first time would have acted similarly. Even Peter who in the previous passage (vv.13-20) had boldly proclaimed: “You are Christ the Son of the living God” (v. 16) and in answer to him Jesus said: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church…” (v. 18) objects strongly to Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death: “God forbid, Lord!” (v. 22) Jesus’ answer is very different to the previous one: “Get behind me, Satan!” (v. 23) Not only are his own sufferings foretold but Jesus then tells his disciples that anyone who wishes to follow him would have to go the same way of persecution and suffering.
Surely Peter and the other disciples recalled and felt what the prophet Jeremiah said in our first reading: “LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived,” (v. 7). This is the first part of the sixth and final lament of Jeremiah (vv.7-18). He has experienced nothing but derision and mockery as the mouthpiece of the LORD. All he wants to do is to give up speaking in the name of the LORD. Once having been chosen by God and experienced the LORD in his life he knows that there is no other way for him to go. Jeremiah experiences a burning sensation in his heart and bones – the love and will of the LORD are compelling. Psalm 63 describes the great longing for God which is deep within us and which cannot be satisfied except by the LORD God. We recall Peter’s words in John’s Gospel: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (6:68)
In the second reading taken from Romans, Paul encourages us who have received the mercy of God and accepted to follow Jesus to be “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (v.1). We are to live daily as Christ lived. Paul goes on to tell us how: we must no longer conform to worldly values but live according to the will of God as seen in the life of Jesus. And so we return to the Gospel for the answer to living according to Jesus: we must deny our sinful and selfish selves, take up our cross and walk after Him who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14: 6). Jesus has shown us that riches and power are of little worth – losing ourselves in the love and will of God is the only way to be eternally happy: “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” (v. 27)
For Reflection and Discussion: St Augustine who had lived a worldly life as a young man said after he had experienced the love and mercy of God through Jesus Christ, said: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” How and when have I experienced this in my life?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)