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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 (2b)
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27
August 30, 2020

Last week Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”.

Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter gave a great answer.  He gave the right answer.  Good for him.  It would seem Peter has gotten it.  He understands who Jesus is.

Or does he?

Today’s gospel passage picks up where we left off last week after Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ and Jesus giving Peter “the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus then “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”  This is the first time Jesus tells his disciples about his coming Passion and that these things must happen.

Peter, who had just professed Jesus to be the Christ, takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. 

Really?  He’s just (correctly) identified Jesus as the Christ and now he is rebuking him.  How does one rebuke someone you profess to be the Christ?  Why would Peter do this?

For one, Peter has been attached to Jesus, he cares about Jesus, he won’t want anything bad to happen to Jesus. 

Secondly, the Jews, including Peter, expected the Christ to become a great earthly king.  Taken at face value, what Jesus says must happen, his suffering and death, would go against the Jewish expectation.    

Thus, we see Peter doesn’t fully understand.  It was not what he wanted to hear.  Prophets like Jeremiah had been delivering unpopular messages for centuries.  The messages weren’t popular because it wasn’t what the people wanted to hear. 

What does preaching an unpopular message get a prophet?  For Jeremiah, he became “an object of laughter” and he is mocked.  It brings him “derision and reproach.”  So much so that Jeremiah wants to quit being a prophet. 

What happens when you speak about your faith?  Do you ever feel like “an object of laughter” and mocked for your faith?

We should not give up.  Jeremiah tried to stop prophesizing but found he couldn’t.  Jeremiah found the fire for the Lord continued to burn in his heart.  He had to continue.  Do you keep your faith?

Returning to Peter’s rebuke of Jesus, I don’t think Peter intended to reject what Jesus said.  Rather, it is an emotional reaction to news he didn’t want to hear.  A less emotional reaction might have been to say to Jesus, “I don’t understand this.  How can it be?”  Instead, Peter thinks “not as God does, but as human beings do.

Do you attempt to think as God does or do you think only in human terms?

When you see or hear something you don’t like, what is at the core of your response?  Is your response purely emotional?  Is it logical, does it make use of reason?  Is your response spiritual?

If we wish to come after Jesus, we must be willing to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him.  We must be willing to lose our life in this world to gain eternal life.

Let’s think about how we respond to a common “cross” that we all must face, the Coronavirus.

I think it is safe to say nobody wants what is going on with the Coronavirus.  It might affect some more than others but it is a Cross to each of us in some way. 

Certainly, those who get the Coronavirus and become sick face a cross.

During the shutdown, most people were stuck home (a cross to bear).  Even those who had to work bore a Cross in risking exposure.  We are grateful for what they do.

Even now, the Coronavirus continues to be a cross to bear.  The virus is still out there.  So, some must still remain home for the safety of their health.  For those of us who can gather together, we must wear face masks, social distancing, and not sing together.  It remains a challenge, a cross to bear.

There are those who think all the precautions are absolutely necessary.  On the other extreme think none of it is necessary. 

What does God think about the precautions? 

I think God wants to us to use our reason but to trust in him.  We need to be willing to make sacrifices for a greater good.  Yes, the face masks and social distancing are annoying but they must work some because states they didn’t require them are in far worse shape right now than New York. 

How long all the precautions will be necessary I don’t know.  I pray for both our secular and religious leaders to be guided by God in making good choices. 

I pray that it be over soon.  I pray that the day come soon when we can shake hands, exchange the Sign of Peace, and sing from the hymnals.  Until then I am willing to “deny” my desire for these things, a small cross for the greater good of public health.  I don’t want to, but I will.  It seems to be the fastest way through the pandemic.  I pray that God brings some good of this.

Jesus didn’t want to suffer on the Cross.  He prayed in agony in the garden.  But He willingly sacrificed himself on the Cross for us.  We need to be willing to sacrifice for a greater good.

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