For the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – September 3, 2017

“The growing knowledge of and the love of Christ, above all, prepares us to follow His call.” (St. Ignatius)
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)  

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Love Implies Sacrifice.

Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak about the cost of faithfulness. The passion/sufferings (sacrifices) of Jeremiah foreshadow the passion (sacrifice) of Jesus, which He speaks about in the Gospel. In Reading 2, Paul speaks about offering ourselves as a “living sacrifice” to God.

Sacrifice means – surrendering something of value for something of greater value. The Eucharist is a true sacrifice, not just a commemorative meal. The sacrificial character of Jesus’ instruction, “Do this in remembrance of Me” can be translated “Offer this (i.e. our sacrificing of our Unchristian way of life  for a Christian way of life) as my memorial offering.”

  • Reading 1 – Jeremiah 20:7-9      Jeremiah laments but cannot fail to speak in God’s name.
  • Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 63:2-6,8-9      Our souls yearn for God.
  • Reading 2 Romans 12:1-2      Paul encourages the Romans to stay faithful to God.
  • Gospel Matthew 16:21-27     Jesus speaks of His Passion (sacrifice) and rebukes Peter for his objection.

NOTE: To gain clarity of understanding in all of the following scriptural passages that have many inline footnotes, first read only the purple colored scriptural words in the passage. Then re-read the passage along with the green colored inline footnotes.

Reading 1     Jeremiah 20:7-9                       (Power of God’s Will)

Context – The Lord called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC, just before and during the exile, and ended sometime after 580 BC in Egypt. He resided in the Southern Kingdom, ie. Judah. He was appointed to reveal the sins of the people, the coming consequences (ie. exile), and hope for the future (ie. bring his people to a state of perseverance for a better life after the exile). Jeremiah weeps for sinful Judah, and is called “the  crying prophet”. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor and persecuted more intensely than any other Hebrew prophet ever had been.

Today’s Reading – During a turbulent time in Israel’s history, Jeremiah is called by God to deliver a message that his people do not want to hear. Jeremiah must denounce corruption in the temple liturgy and condemn the people’s dabbling in foreign cults, chastise them for their many breaches of the covenant, and castigate them for ignoring the poor. But the people beat him up and throw him in a dark dungeon. Being a messenger of God is no fun – it incurs many sacrifices.

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; You were too strong for me, and You triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. (Jeremiah is not charging God with any untruth; but what he calls duping, was only the concealing from him, when he accepted the prophetical commission, the greatness of the evils which the execution of that commission was to bring upon him. God never promised Jeremiah that he would not suffer persecution.)

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. (Jeremiah felt that he was always shouting messages of impending disaster, and these announcements had resulted in people criticizing and ridiculing him constantly.)

I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. (Regardless, Jeremiah could not however refrain from speaking. For Jeremiah, the only thing worse than being God’s prophet is saying “no” to God’s call.)

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.    

Responsorial Psalm.     Psalm 63:2-6,8-9                             (Longing for God)

Today’s Psalm –  This beautiful psalm expresses the author’s intense longing to be in the presence of God. Most likely, this psalm expresses the thoughts and feelings of Jeremiah on his better days.

R – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
O God, You are my God whom I seek; for You my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. – My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory, for Your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify You.
(“to see” what/whom? – in the OT, it  relates to the Arc of the Covenant; in the NT,  it relates to Jesus Christ.)

R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless You while I live; lifting up my hands
(a gesture of prayer and doing good works), I will call upon Your name. As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise You.
R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.
You are my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to You; Your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for You, O Lord my God.

PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.       

Reading 2.     Romans 12:1-2                          (A Living Sacrifice)

Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Today’s Reading – In acknowledgment of God’s goodness, followers of Christ are to seek to make Christian values permeate every aspect of their lives. Authentic liturgy is not something that just takes place in church. Ideally, our whole life is an act of worship to God. Offering ourselves to God means conforming to His will and not to the temptations of the world. Verse 1 deals with making the commitment – an explicit act, to conforming to His will and verse 2 with maintaining it – maintaining a lifelong process.

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice (as opposed to the OT offering of slain animals as sacrifices), holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age (Our current age seeks to exclude God from life.) but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (Total commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ is a prerequisite for experiencing God’s will.).

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you         “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice”   We obey this command to “offer ourselves” in each Eucharistic prayer when we respond to the Priest when he says “Lift up your hearts” and we say  “We lift them up to the Lord.” We are placing our lives on the altar along with the offering of bread and wine – so that our lives, along with the bread and wine, can be transformed by God into something even more pleasing to Him. 

Gospel     Matthew 16:21-27                (Taking Up the Cross)

Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to  prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.

Today’s Reading – Peter has yet to learn that Jesus will not be a regal warrior type of hero, but a humble, suffering Messiah. Then Jesus goes on to speak about the cost and  rewards of discipleship. The disciples must be willing to embrace the crosses of life and die to themselves, i.e., to their false self―proud, vain, self-seeking – sacrifices.  Jesus, not oneself, must be the center of one’s life.  In dying to the desires of the false self, we will discover and grow into our true (Christ) self. The Gospel concludes with a reminder that ahead for each of us is a day of reckoning. Our words and deeds will have eternal consequences.

Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes (The three groups which compose the Sanhedrin, the elders were lay leaders.), and be killed and on the third day be raised. (Jerusalem is the city where the prophets die (Matthew 23:29-39). Imagine the disillusionment of the disciples at this point – He has just previously been revealed as the Messiah and instead of military victory and prosperity, He is speaking of suffering and rejection.) Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me (Remain a follower; you are not yet ready to lead.), Satan! (Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. Peter is acting like Satan and tempting Jesus.) You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Peter’s natural instincts object to a suffering Messiah. At this time, He cannot understand the spiritual necessity of Jesus’ Passion for sinners.)  

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. (Jesus indicates that suffering and self-denial (sacrifices) are central to the Christian life.) For 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 (Acquire great wealth.) and forfeit his life (Here life is not merely physical existence, but one’s higher or spiritual life.)? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with His angels in His Father’s glory, and then He will repay all according to his conduct.” (This is a picture of the rewards of discipleship. The Son of Man acts as judge and the kingdom is His. )

PAUSE  and reflect on how the above speaks to you.

Catechism 736 – By the power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.” [Personal Sacrifices].

Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.