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22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

Last week Peter responded to Jesus’ question, “But who do you say that I am?” with “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  For this Jesus identifies Peter as “blessed”, pronounces him as the “rock” upon which he will build his church, and gives him “the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Peter was looking pretty good.

That was last week.  This week, our gospel picks up right where we left off last week.  Jesus now tells them for the first time about his coming passion.  He tells them that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.

Now Jesus saying he “must go to Jerusalem” would made sense to Peter but suffer?  Be killed?  It couldn’t be.  Jesus is the Christ.  He is supposed to be the one to set them free from their enemies.  How could he be killed by the elders and the scribes?  The Romans were the ones seen as the enemies.

So, most of what Jesus says makes no sense to Peter.  Peter, who had just called Jesus the Christ rebukes him.  Jesus then says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me.

Ouch!  Peter goes from being “blessed” and the “rock” to being called “Satan” and an “obstacle” in a few sentences.

Why?

Jesus gives the answer.  Peter is “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  Peter was waiting for the Messiah, the Christ.  His soul was thirsting to know our Lord but he had his expectations of what the Messiah would be like.  When Jesus tells us of his coming passion, it doesn’t find what Peter was expecting.

People often think that if they believe in Jesus and come to church everything should be fine.  Perhaps Jeremiah thought this way when he agreed to be a prophet.  Jeremiah now feels “duped” because he has become “an object of laughter.” He said, “The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day” so much so that he wants to give up being a prophet but he can’t.

We might often think of church as a place we go to flee from our problems.  Coming to church can be a powerful help in the problems we face but being Christian can be a challenge.

Knowing this, Jesus goes on to say “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Deny himself” and “take up his cross” are hardly words that we might put on a billboard to invite people to come to church but they are essential to understanding what it means to be Christian.

Peter was very open to Jesus as the Christ as he saw the role of the Christ but he wasn’t ready for Jesus to be the Christ that God willed.  He would need time and grace for that.

When we face suffering in our lives, we might rush to ask Jesus to fix that suffering.  Are we open to him “fixing” the suffering in the way he wants or just the way we want?  Going a step beyond that do we want Jesus to change just one part of our life that we don’t like or are we willing to let him change our whole life?

I can’t stress the “whole” in life enough.  Are we willing to let Jesus change the way we look at things?

I have spoken before of how, in his pastoral letter for our Year of the Eucharist, Bishop Matano wrote about the importance of regular attendance at Sunday Mass.  What are you looking for when you come to Mass?

Are you looking just to “feel good”?  Now wanting to “feel good” is not a bad thing as long as it isn’t just a superficial feeling but rooted in how our soul thirsts for God.

The purpose of Mass is not to simply make us “feel good.”  The first purpose of Mass is to praise God.  This means we need to live with an attitude of gratitude in seeing the blessings that God has given us.”

Mass should also help us as Christians but not just to feel good for the time we are here.  We are not at a music concert where we look for music that makes us happy or want to dance or wave our hands around.  We need a Mass with a reverence that draws us into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Likewise we don’t select readings from the Bible for Mass that are simply meant to feel good about what we do in our own lives.  The readings, and hopefully what I preach if I listen to the Spirit, are designed to help us become better Christians.  If we do that, we will not feel just “good” but “joyful” for longer than just the time we are at Mass.

In thinking about what we are looking for out of Mass and life in general, I want to end with some of the words Paul wrote the Romans, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God.

 

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