Sunday, Sept. 3, is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-9 Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27
Jesus this Sunday calls us to the same thing a speaker called students at Benedictine College to earlier this week.
“You want to give your life to something bigger than yourself,” said Peter Robinson. “Look to the monks and sisters. They are the radicals. They are the counterculture now.”
At the Benedictine College Convocation last Tuesday, our speaker was the author and scholar who, as a White House speechwriter, wrote Ronald Reagan’s “Tear Down this Wall!” speech in Berlin.
He saw God-fearing Russians and faithful Germans as the vital counterculture that took down the Soviets 30 years ago — and he told students to be part of the counterculture in America today.
To be a part of this counterculture, all we have to do is give ourselves totally, unreservedly, to Jesus Christ. As the Gospel puts it: “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”
In the 1980s, many in the West wanted to appease the communists and hedge their bets. That only perpetuated the system. In the same way, those who want to give themselves by half-measures to God will never fully feel his joy. We need to be wholly devoted to Our Lord.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me,” says Jesus.
The choice is not always easy.
In the first reading, Jeremiah beautifully expresses this eternal dilemma. The prophet seems to want to go along with the world as it is, but he can’t.
When he says these words, you can imagine him sitting in a conversation where pornography or abortion comes up: “Whenever I speak, I must cry out — violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.”
The only place to find happiness in these circumstances is in the Lord himself. “Do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” says St. Paul in the second reading. “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”
Ironically, only those who are willing to suffer will find the answer God gives to suffering. Sometimes this feels terrible. Sometimes we feel “duped” by God into misery, like Jeremiah. But not always.
Sometimes we feel “satisfied,” as the Psalm today puts it, “as with the riches of a banquet.” Sometimes we feel so wonderful in God’s presence that we say things like, “In the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.”
But those who try to give Jesus a little and the spirit of the age a little bit too never discover this. Only the “radicals” do.
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima