Twenty Second Sunday Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27
Enticed, seduced and overpowered by the Lord’s call are the phrases that sum up best the message of this Sunday. The readings focus our attention on the cost of discipleship. Human beings tend to avoid any suffering. It is easier to be comfortable. In the first reading therefore, it is no surprise that the prophet Jeremiah is reluctant to let himself be mocked and insulted as part of doing God’s will. Indeed Jeremiah is actually prophesying the inevitable suffering of those who choose to follow Jesus Christ. Paul in the second reading exhorts us saying, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” In other words we must reject the standards of our secular world. That is where our discipleship is tested and becomes a true cross that we carry after Christ. That is what Paul describes as offering our bodies as a living sacrifice. Both readings therefore form a beautiful introduction to the Gospel passage on the cost of discipleship and stewardship. You will recall that in last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus commended Peter as being led by the Holy Spirit. Peter had proclaimed that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus rebukes Peter who tries to dissuade him from carrying out the Father’s plan of salvation through the Cross. That’s why Jesus called him Satan, someone who is fighting against the will of God. Peter went from recognizing Jesus as the Christ, to being controlled by human fears, and therefore opposing the very purpose Christ’s mission. Peter had a long way to go before he could look at the cross prepared for him and peacefully accept the challenge of his imminent martyrdom. Indeed Peter reacts violently to the very thought of a suffering Messiah. How could the one who fed the crowds; who walked on water and performed miracle also suffer greatly and be put to death? That is why Jesus takes the opportunity to offer a catechesis on what it means to be his follower. "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me". These are familiar words, but what do they mean concretely?
Let us first focus on the image of carrying one's cross. Jesus himself carries his own cross to Calvary, He is crucified, He dies for our sins and rises in order to give us life. Discipleship and stewardship to Christ means doing what Jesus did. Carrying one’s cross therefore means dying to self, subduing our selfish desires, passions, self-esteem, and pride. It means putting ourselves last, choosing to die for others, so that others may be and live. Looking at the world today especially the Middle East, there is so much turmoil partly because of human greed that explains the fact of dictatorship in that region. The Gospel values challenge us to place ourselves last, letting others enjoy the fruits of freedom. The idea of costly discipleship is a reminder that gaining power and control over others could lead us to ruin. Renouncing self for the sake of Christ will certainly make us like Christ, who dies that we may have life. What message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Like Jeremiah, you and I have been enticed and overpowered by the Lord’s call through our baptism to follow Christ. 2) Following Jesus is about taking up our cross; it involves the way of that Cross along with Jesus Christ; it involves standing for our faith even if we are insulted, mocked or threatened with death; it involved inconvenience, sacrifice and letting go so that others may be first. 3) In the words of Saint Paul, our discipleship and stewardship means a commitment to live values that are contrary to those of this world, and thus being ridiculed for our faith. Think about it.
©2014 John S. Mbinda