22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
30th August 2020
Year A – Psalter week 2
In last Sunday’s gospel, Peter is inspired by God to recognise who Jesus is: “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Following this profession of faith, Jesus replies to Peter: “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.” Jesus, the promised Davidic King and the King of Heaven, declared Peter his Prime Minister, the first among the apostles who together will administer the kingdom.
In what stark contrast are Jesus’ words to Peter in today’s gospel as he tries to dissuade Jesus from taking the path of suffering and death: “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” In these words, Jesus is pointing out that a purely human way of thinking is to want to succeed and conquer by power and force, and to avoid suffering at all costs. It is the same kind of thinking that Jesus encounters even while hanging on the cross, when those who passed by derided him by saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The chief priests, scribes and elders also mocked: “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God’” (Matthew 27:38-43).
Peter then, as with many others, and I suspect with most of us too, fails to see the value of suffering. How often have we lost faith or become disheartened when things have not gone as we have liked, or we ourselves, or a loved one, have experienced suffering? The first reaction we are tempted into, is to think that God has abandoned us. While, of course, this is understandable from a purely human perspective, we have failed to take on board the words of Jesus in today’s gospel when he says: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” So often we think of our Christian life in purely human terms and expect God to keep us from any suffering, when of course the opposite is true. If we truly are to be disciples of Jesus, then the cross will be a daily experience, and especially in a world that is hostile to the message of the Gospel.
I am struck by St Paul’s words in the second reading, when he says to the Christians in Rome: “Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” As Christians, then, we are to seek the mind of Christ. As so often in the gospels, Jesus’ thinking is at complete odds with those around him. He views reality from a heavenly perspective, not an earthly one. This is why so many of his teachings are paradoxes, because the heavenly realm seems to work directly opposite to the earthly one. Think, for example, of Jesus’ teaching that “many that are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30), or of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit… whose who mourn… the meek… those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… the merciful… the pure of heart… the peacemakers… those who are persecuted for righteousness sake… when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…” (Matthew 5:1-11). These are not qualities or experiences that speak of happiness or success in worldly terms, but they do reap great rewards in heaven.
If we are to grow in discipleship we need to seek more and more the mind of Jesus. We can do this by questioning and renouncing our inherited earthly mind-set, by meditating upon the scriptures and upon the teachings of the church and the saints, by seeking intimacy with the Lord in prayer and in the Sacraments, and by putting our faith into action in our daily lives. We need to pray too, for the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and to bestow wisdom and revelation upon us. Indeed, let us claim for ourselves the graces of the following prayer of St Paul: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:16-19).
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our mind, so that we can see what hope his call holds for us. Alleluia!