Twenty-second Sunday In Ordinary Time Jer 20, 7-9 Ps 63, 2-6; 8-9 Rom 12, 1-2 Mt 16, 21-27
THE PSALMIST prays: “Your kindness is a greater good then life.” In other words, the tender compassion, solicitude, and generosity of God who calls life into existence surpasses the value even of that great gift. However, to understand such a profound mystery, we need, as St. Paul informs us, to be transformed by the renewal of our mind so that we “may judge what is God's will.” For we cannot appreciate what is truly “good, pleasing, and perfect” about life without the revelation of grace.
Only such a mental renewal enlightens us as to the crucial role of sacrifice in happiness. Peter learned this when he allowed his life to be led by presuppositions and good intentions alone. Jesus reproves him: “You are not judging by God's standards but by mans'.” To judge by God's standards means to join Jesus as he undertakes his deliberate journey “to Jerusalem to suffer greatly there.” Our own participation in that self-sacrifice involves three things.
To follow Jesus we must deny our very self, as Jesus does, by offering our “bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God.” For what is the meaning of life without God? It is “like the earth, parched, lifeless, and without water.” By denying ourselves, we refuse to seek comfort, pleasure, or security in anything apart from God: “You are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts.” And in the process, we find with joy our life lost in God. It is the power of “the mercy of God” that enables us to reject all conformity “to this age” and to revel in the holy profit of gaining, not “the whole worldod's will.” Such a hope-filled “exchange” in divine mercy is the only type of which we are capable.
The renewal of our mind also informs us of the necessity of taking up our cross. For it is only in the taking up of our struggles and burdens that we discover the unfailing source of our own strength. Under the weight of our cross we become convinced that God is our help. The more we hold fast to our cross in faith, the more do we embrace the crucified Jesus. In asking us to take up our cross, we may feel, like Jeremiah, that the Lord is duping us. In reality, He uses our trials to prove to us that, if we remain united to Him, his strength will overcome our temptations and He will triumph in us.
When we put on the mind of Christ we feel compelled also to follow in his footsteps. It is a call to accompany the Lord in love, especially by calling upon Jesus' name. God's name becomes like a fire burning in our hearts, directing our steps, guiding our hands. To share in the privilege of uttering God's Holy Name remains an unequaled sharing in His kindness that satisfies our souls and that fills our life with all goodness.
Father Peter John Cameron teaches homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y.