22nd Sunday Year A

 Mass Readings:

Reading 1 – Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalm – Psalm 63:2-9
Reading 2 – Romans 12:1-2
Gospel – Matthew 16:21-27


My 2017 Homily Thoughts:

Jeremiah and the Word of God by Bishop Barron

  • Jeremiah gives us the courage to evangelize in difficult times. He first resisted the call when he was youth. He consented. God gave Jeremiah a terribly hard message to give to his people – totally at odds with the culture of the time – job = warn Israel, will be punished by Babylon and to surrender to them rather than fight. Not 1 bit of this message would appeal to anyone. Totally negative. Nickname “terror on every side”. He was mocked, rejected, exiled and probably murdered in exile. In the meantime, all his predictions came true. Try speaking about abortion, try speaking against gay marriage, try advocating for large families and against artificial contraception, try calling gay people to chastity, … Jeremiah tried to hold back but he could not. Key idea = Once we hear the word of God we cannot un-hear it. Even when it makes us unpopular and causes us to lose friends… “it burns within us” = this is what Jeremiah realized at the end of it all… Evangelize! Speak of God in a hostile world. “woe to me if I do not evangelize” ~ St. Paul. The vocation of the prophet is never an easy one.

Eucharistic Meditation on Romans 12:1-2 by Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP

  • When you love someone, you want that love to grow. So what do you do to make sure it happens? If you do nothing at all, what you love will corrupt. Thus, you go out of your way to give yourself to whatever comes 1st in that relationship – no matter what it is and no matter what the cost. This is what Christians mean by “sacrifice.” It is not about “giving up things”; it is about doing whatever is possible to get as much love as we possibly can. Sacrifice is the way that we eagerly adjust our lives so that our greatest desires come true.
  • The novelist and Christian essayist Dorothy Sayers observes that when there is something that we supremely want, we never consider the difficulty involved as “self-sacrifice.” We view it in that negative way only when we do not supremely desire the thing in question. As she comments, “at such times you are doing your duty, and that is admirable, but it is not love. But as soon as your duty becomes your love the ‘self-sacrifice’ is taken for granted.”
  • The Eucharist is a sacrifice because the Eucharist is Christ’s gift of self to the Father in the Passion…
  • Reflection Questions: (1) What is my conception of sacrifice? Is it essentially something negative? (2) What role has sacrifice played in gaining what I supremely desire? (3) How have I received back a more perfect self by offering myself to God and others in sacrifice?

The Language of Love by Fr. Cantalamessa

  • “Deny yourself” = Jesus does not ask us to deny “what we are,” but “what we have become.” We are images of God. Thus, we are something “very good,” as God himself said, immediately after creating man and woman. What we must deny is not that which God has made, but that which we ourselves have made by misusing our freedom — the evil tendencies, sin, all those things that have covered over the original.
  • Denying yourself is also a learning of the language of true love. Imagine, said the great Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, a purely human situation. Two young people love each other. But they belong to two different nations and speak completely different languages. If their love is to survive and grow, one of them must learn the language of the other. Otherwise, they will not be able to communicate and their love will not last. This, Kierkegaard said, is how it is with us and God. We speak the language of the flesh, he speaks that of the spirit; we speak the language of selfishness, he that of love. Denying yourself is learning the language of God so that we can communicate with him, but it is also learning the language that allows us to communicate with each other. We will not be able to say “yes” to the other — beginning with our own wife or husband — if we are not first of all able to say “no” to ourselves. Keeping within the context of marriage, many problems and failures with the couple come from the fact that the man has never learned to express love for the woman, nor she for the man. Even when it speaks of denying ourselves, we see that the Gospel is much less distant from life than it is sometimes believed.

The Word Burning Within ~ Opening the Word Series on Formed

  • Jeremiah – poor guy. Complains to God. Then realizes the Word of God burns within his heart. The prophet has to pay the price to convey the message. We have to be totally in love with God or else we will not do it.
  • Psalm 63 – “your love is better than life” … This love enables us to…
  • Romans 12 – offer our whole bodies as living sacrifices to be consumed like Jeremiah, like Jesus.
  • Matthew 16 – Peter’s heart is full of love & cannot bear it. Funny how Peter says “God forbid” to God Himself.

Dr. Brandt Pitre: Suffering and Discipleship

  • Our Lord’s command seems hard and heavy, that anyone who wants to follow him must renounce himself. But no command is hard and heavy when it comes from one who helps to carry it out. That other saying of his is true: “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” Whatever is hard in his commands is made easy by love. ~ St. Augustine, Sermon 96.1-4
  • If anyone would follow me…” Little friend, we are sad, living the Passion of our Lord Jesus. See how lovingly he embraces the cross. Learn from him. Jesus carries the cross for you: You… carry it for Jesus. But don’t drag the cross… Carry it squarely on your should, because your cross, if you carry it so, will not just be any cross… It will be the  holy cross. Don’t carry your cross with resignation: resignation is not a generous word. Love the cross. When you really love it, your cross will be, a Cross without a cross. And surely, you will find Mary on the way, just as Jesus did. ~ J. Socias, Daily Roman Missal, p. 2427

  • “Whenever he speaks about “taking up the cross” of suffering, Jesus also speaks about the resurrection and the final judgment. Why do you think he always talks about the resurrection whenever he teaches about the Cross?” ~ Brandt Pitre


Scripture Commentaries:

Reading 1 – Jeremiah 20:7-9

Jeremiah lived through one of the most troubled periods of the ancient near east. He witnessed the fall of a great empire (Assyria) and the rising of one even greater (Babylon). In the midst of this turmoil, the kingdom of Judah, then in the hands of deplorable kings, came to its downfall by resisting this overwhelming force of history. Yahweh called Jeremiah to be a prophet to Judah and to the nations in the midst of these political convolutions. His ministry lasted about forty years (627-587 B.C.) And his book testifies that his interventions were numerous. In fact, the last decades of Judah’s history required a continual flow of light from Yahweh’s messengers; besides Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Nahum, and Ezekiel delivered the word of God. Of all these inspired men, no one reached the stature of Jeremiah in his great sensitivity to Yahweh’s love for His people and in his profound understanding of this very people’s duty toward Yahweh through the covenant. Thus, Jeremiah’s prophetic word is noted for its directness and acuity in stating the true nature of Yahwehism and in denouncing the different religious deviations. The two predominant themes of his message are precisely to define true Yahwehism and to proclaim the imminent wars as punishments of Judah’s aberrations. In 586 B.C. Jerusalem was sacked and the Judean population deported to Babylon. A number of Judeans fled to Egypt, taking Jeremiah along with them where, according to Jewish legend, he was stoned to death.

9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Jeremiah’s prophetic inspiration is irresistible. In Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; Isaiah 33:14, Yahweh is said to be a consuming fire. Here Jeremiah applies this imagery to God’s word.

“Love is good, then, having wings of burning fire as it flies through the breasts and hearts of the saints and consumes whatever is material and earthly but tests whatever is pure and with its fire makes better whatever it has touched. This fire the Lord Jesus sent on earth, and faith shone bright, devotion was enkindled, love was illuminated, and justice was filled with splendor”. Isaac, or the Soul 8.77. ~ Ambrose,  Wenthe, D. O. (Ed.). (2009). Jeremiah, Lamentations (p. 157). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Psalm – Psalm 63:2-9
Reading 2 – Romans 12:1-2

Today we again continue our study of the book of Romans from where we left off the previous week. Saint Paul writes from the point of view of a Pharisee who is well schooled in the scriptures and in covenant theology. He has been lamenting how the Jews have failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but at the same time rejoicing that the Gentiles serve as the means to bring the whole world to salvation. After all, the Jews are descended from the southern kingdom (Judah) while the ten tribes of the northern kingdom (Israel) were sent into exile in 722 B.C. and never returned; having been scattered among “the nations.” The Gentiles are from “the nations” and will serve as the example to bring about the reunification of the descendants of Jacob/Israel, the twelve tribes.

¹ I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

“How can you be a priest for God, having been anointed for this very purpose of offering a gift to God, not a gift that is completely alien or fraudulent because it consists of what is external to you but a gift which is truly yours because it consists of what is internal to you, which is the man inside you helping you to be perfect and blameless according to the word of the Lamb, free from all stain and dishonor?” ~ Gregory of Nyssa, Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (p. 295). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

How is the body to become a sacrifice? Let the eye look on no evil thing, and it has already become a sacrifice. Let the tongue say nothing filthy, and it has become an offering.13 Let your hand do nothing evil, and it has become a whole burnt offering. But even this is not enough, for we must have good works also.15 The hand must do alms, the mouth must bless those who curse it, and the ears must find time to listen to the reading of Scripture. Sacrifice allows of no unclean thing. It is the first fruits of all other actions. Homilies on Romans 20. ~ St. John Chrysostom,  Bray, G. (Ed.). (1998). Romans (Revised) (pp. 295–296). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

“The fashion of this world is groveling and worthless, and temporal as well. It has nothing noble or uplifting about it but is wholly perverted. The second part [of the verse] may mean either that we should be renewed, in order to learn what is expedient for us, or that if we learn what is expedient for us we shall be renewed. Either way, God wills what is expedient for us and whatever He wills is by definition expedient for us.” ~ Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 20

We obey this command to “offer ourselves” in each Eucharistic prayer when we “Lift up our hearts” – “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

Having heard last week Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and his (Peter’s) subsequent commissioning as the leader of the Church, Jesus now proceeds to begin to instruct His apostles about what is to happen to Him (His passion and death).

21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

So Jesus began to seek to open their eyes to the fact that for him there was no way but the way of the Cross. He said that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer at the hands of the “elders and chief priests and scribes.” These three groups of men were in fact the three groups of which the Sanhedrin was composed. The elders were the respected men of the people; the chief priests were predominantly Sadducees; and the scribes were Pharisees. In effect, Jesus is saying that he must suffer at the hands of the orthodox religious leaders of the country ~ William Barclay

22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

Peter wants only a theology of grace and glory, a health and wealth gospel; he wants to separate Christ from His cross.

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Satan tempted Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1). Peter is acting like Satan and tempting Jesus.

There are certain things which we must grasp in order to understand this tragic and dramatic scene.

  1. The tone of Jesus’ voice = He certainly did not say it with a snarl of anger in his voice and a blaze of indignant passion in his eyes. He said it like a man wounded to the heart, with poignant grief and a kind of shuddering horror. Why should he react like that? Peter is offering Jesus the same temptation that Jesus faced in the desert. Peter urges upon Jesus what the devil whispered – a way of escape from the Cross.
  2. That is why Peter was Satan. “Satan” literally means the Adversary. That is why Peter’s ideas were not God’s but men’s. Satan is any force which seeks to deflect us from the way of God; Satan is any influence which seeks to make us turn back from the hard way that God has set before us; Satan is any power which seeks to make human desires take the place of the divine imperative.
  3. Peter’s misguided love  real love is not the love which holds the knight at home, but the love which sends him out to obey the commandments of the chivalry which is given, not to make life easy, but to make life great. It is quite possible for love to be so protecting that it seeks to protect those it loves from the adventure of the warfare of the soldier of Christ, and from the strenuousness of the pathway of the pilgrim of God. What really wounded Jesus’ heart and what really made him speak as he did, was that the tempter spoke to him that day through the fond but mistaken love of Peter’s hot heart.

A further development comes when we closely examine this saying of Jesus in the light of his saying to Satan at the end of the temptations as Matthew records it in Matthew 4:10. Although in the English translations the two passages sound different they are almost, but not quite, the same. In Matthew 4:10 the Revised Standard Version translates: “Begone, Satan!” and the Greek is: “Hupage (Greek #5217) Satana (Greek #4566).” In the Revised Standard Version translation of Matthew 16:23, Jesus says to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan,” and the Greek is: “Hupage (Greek #5217) opiso (Greek #3694) mou (Greek #3450), Satana (Greek #4566).”

The point is that Jesus’ command to Satan is simply: “Begone!” while his command to Peter is: “Begone behind me!” that is to say, “Become my follower again.” Satan is banished from the presence of Christ; Peter is recalled to be Christ’s follower. The one thing that Satan could never become is a follower of Christ; in his diabolical pride he could never submit to that; that is why he is Satan. On the other hand, Peter might be mistaken and might fail and might sin, but for him there was always the challenge and the chance to become a follower again. It is as if Jesus said to Peter: “At the moment you have spoken as Satan would. But that is not the real Peter speaking. You can redeem yourself. Come behind me, and be my follower again, and even yet, all will be well.” The basic difference between Peter and Satan is precisely the fact that Satan would never get behind Jesus. So long as a man is prepared to try to follow, even after he has fallen, there is still for him the hope of glory here and hereafter.

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

The Great Challenge

Here we have one of the dominant and ever-recurring themes of Jesus’ teaching. These are things which Jesus said to men again and again (Matthew 10:37-39Mark 8:34-37Luke 9:23-27Luke 14:25-27Luke 17:33John 12:25). Again and again he confronted them with the challenge of the Christian life. There are three things which a man must be prepared to do, if he is to live the Christian life.

(i) He must deny himself. Ordinarily we use the word self-denial in a restricted sense. We use it to mean giving up something. For instance, a week of self-denial may be a week when we do without certain pleasures or luxuries in order to contribute to some good cause. But that is only a very small part of what Jesus meant by self-denial. To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self and yes to God. To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God. To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life. The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.

(ii) He must take up his cross. That is to say, he must take up the burden of sacrifice. The Christian life is the life of sacrificial service. The Christian may have to abandon personal ambition to serve Christ; it may be that he will discover that the place where he can render the greatest service to Jesus Christ is somewhere where the reward will be small and the prestige non-existent. He will certainly have to sacrifice time and leisure and pleasure in order to serve God through the service of his fellow-men.

To put it quite simply, the comfort of the fireside, the pleasure of a visit to a place of entertainment, may well have to be sacrificed for the duties of the eldership, the calls of the youth club, the visit to the home of some sad or lonely soul. He may well have to sacrifice certain things he could well afford to possess in order to give more away. The Christian life is the sacrificial life.

Luke, with a flash of sheer insight, adds one word to this command of Jesus: “Let him take up his cross daily.” The really important thing is not the great moments of sacrifice, but a life lived in the constant hourly awareness of the demands of God and the need of others. The Christian life is a life which is always concerned with others more than it is concerned with itself.

(iii) He must follow Jesus Christ. That is to say, he must render to Jesus Christ a perfect obedience. When we were young we used to play a game called “Follow my Leader.” Everything the leader did, however difficult, and, in the case of the game, however ridiculous, we had to copy. The Christian life is a constant following of our leader, a constant obedience in thought and word and action to Jesus Christ. The Christian walks in the footsteps of Christ, wherever he may lead.

25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Losing and Finding Life

There is all the difference in the world between existing and living. To exist is simply to have the lungs breathing and the heart beating; to live is to be alive in a world where everything is worth while, where there is peace in the soul, joy in the heart, and a thrill in every moment. Jesus here gives us the recipe for life as distinct from existence.

(i) The man who plays for safety loses life. Matthew was writing somewhere between A.D. 80 and 90. He was therefore writing in some of the bitterest days of persecution. He was saying: “The time may well come when you can save your life by abandoning your faith; but if you do, so far from saving life, in the real sense of the term you are losing life.” The man who is faithful may die but he dies to live; the man who abandons his faith for safety may live, but he lives to die.

In our day and generation it is not likely to be a question of martyrdom, but it still remains a fact that, if we meet life in the constant search for safety, security, ease and comfort, if every decision is taken from worldly-wise and prudential motives, we are losing all that makes life worth while. Life becomes a soft and flabby thing, when it might have been an adventure. Life becomes a selfish thing, when it might have been radiant with service. Life becomes an earthbound thing when it might have been reaching for the stars. The man who plays for safety ceases to be a man, for man is made in the image of God.

(ii) The man who risks all–and maybe looks as if he had lost all–for Christ, finds life. It is the simple lesson of history that it has always been the adventurous souls, bidding farewell to security and safety, who wrote their names on history and greatly helped the world of men. Unless there had been those prepared to take risks, many a medical cure would not exist. Unless there had been those prepared to take risks, many of the machines which make life easier would never have been invented. Unless there were mothers prepared to take risks, no child would ever be born. It is the man who is prepared “to bet his life that there is a God” who in the end finds life.

(iii) Then Jesus speaks with a warning: “Suppose a man plays for safety; suppose he gains the whole world; then suppose that he finds that life is not worth living, what can he give to get life back again?” And the grim truth is that he cannot get life back again. In every decision of life, we are doing something to ourselves; we are making ourselves a certain kind of person; we are building up steadily and inevitably a certain kind of character; we are making ourselves able to do certain things and quite unable to do others. It is perfectly possible for a man to gain all the things he set his heart upon, and then to awaken one morning to find that he has missed the most important things of all.

The world stands for material things as opposed to God; and of all material things there are three things to be said.

  1. No one can take them with him at the end; he can take only himself; and if he degraded himself in order to get them, his regret will be bitter.
  2. They cannot help a man in the shattering days of life. Material things will never mend a broken heart or cheer a lonely soul.
  3. If by any chance a man gained his material possessions in a way that is dishonourable, there will come a day when conscience will speak, and he will know hell on this side of the grave.

The world is full of voices crying out that he is a fool who sells real life for material things.

(iv) Finally Jesus asks: “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” The Greek is, “What antallagma (Greek #465) will a man give for his soul?” Antallagma (Greek #465) is an interesting word. In the book of Ecclesiasticus we read: “There is no antallagma (Greek #465) for a faithful friend,” and, “There is no antallagma (Greek #465) for a disciplined soul” (Ecc 6:15Ecc 26:14). It means that there is no price which will buy a faithful friend or a disciplined soul. So then this final saying of Jesus can mean two things.

  1. It can mean: Once a man has lost his real life, because of his desire for security and for material things, there is no price that he can pay to get it back again. He has done something to himself which cannot ever be fully obliterated.
  2. It can mean: A man owes himself and everything else to Jesus Christ; and there is nothing that a man can give to Christ in place of his life. It is quite possible for a man to try to give his money to Christ and to withhold his life. It is still more possible for a man to give lip-service to Christ and to withhold his life. Many a person gives his weekly freewill offering to the Church, but does not attend; obviously that does not satisfy the demands of church membership. The only possible gift to the Church is ourselves; and the only possible gift to Christ is our whole life. There is no substitute for it. Nothing less will do.

27 “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.

The warning of inevitable judgment. Life is going somewhere–and life is going to judgment. In any sphere of life there inevitably comes the day of reckoning. There is no escape from the fact that Christianity teaches that after life there comes the judgment; and when we take this passage in conjunction with the passage which goes before, we see at once what the standard of judgment is. The man who selfishly hugs life to himself, the man whose first concern is his own safety, his own security and his own comfort, is in heaven’s eyes the failure, however rich and successful and prosperous he may seem to be. The man who spends himself for others, and who lives life as a gallant adventure, is the man who receives heaven’s praise and God’s reward.

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