August 30, 2020 | 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Reading 1: Jeremiah 20:7-9
Reading 2: Romans 12:1-2
Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27
As I read through the readings and the gospel for this weekend, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable. There was a common thread that ran through each of the readings: being mocked for speaking the word of the Lord, presenting my body as a living sacrifice, denying myself... being called Satan? What's going on here?
There is a clear line that's being drawn here, but with your typical biblical flair. This line speaks to who we're called to be by God and who we may end up becoming if we get sucked into the world. Now you might be thinking to yourself, “But I live in the world. How am I supposed to not get sucked in if I’m constantly here in the midst of it?”
It’s true: we are creatures of the world who carry the burden of original sin. We aren’t perfect, and we make mistakes. I’d been reflecting on this very fact a lot lately. Other people may see me and think that I’m a nice, Catholic girl. But those who know me on a more intimate level may have other things to say about that. And sometimes, we get bogged down by how we’re perceived or how people view us and we start to cater to the world as opposed to the one who really matters.
(It’s God, by the way.)
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus starts telling His disciples some pretty hard to swallow truths: They watched Him heal the sick and perform miracles. But the hour will come where He will be tortured and killed, and will eventually rise from the dead three days later.
Peter is bewildered at this. God forbid it, Peter says. And Jesus turns around and says to His dear friend Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” (Matthew 16:23).
When we think about this in human terms, it’s literally unthinkable. If someone very close to you were to tell you about their imminent suffering and death, you probably would try to snap them out of it too. And why? Because we don’t want them to suffer. We don’t want them to be harmed. We also probably have a selfish motive too – we don’t want to lose our friend.
But there is a parallel between the words of Jesus and what St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans: that what we think and what God thinks are very different. We may have our own thoughts and ideas and ways in which we try to conform to the world around us. But God’s ways are infinitely higher and more sophisticated than our own. This is why the opinions of the world shouldn’t matter. If anything, we should be doing our best to “[renew] our minds so that [we] may discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2).
God made each of us in His own image. He created us with so much love and dignity. And despite that, sometimes we forget our value. We cheapen our value by trying to conform to the ideas and opinions of the world around us. And don’t get me wrong: God doesn’t call for us to deliberately make enemies while we’re here on earth. We are called to take up our cross, and we’re promised that if we lose our life for the sake of the gospel, we will find it in heaven.
What does that mean, to take up our cross and lose our life? It means getting ready to be mocked or met with reproach when we share the word of God, like Jeremiah experiences in the First Reading. It’s not allowing ourselves to be conformed or lost to the world around us. It’s being brave and stepping out in our faith.
Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what we think about Catholicism. Jesus calls each of us to action: to show the world who He is in each of our lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sell all their possessions and be a missionary, or that you have a religious vocation, or that you will spend the rest of your days giving retreat talks. Each of us is called in a very unique way to take up our cross and live out our faith. That’s the feminine (and masculine!) genius at work. God, who created us so uniquely, also has a unique plan for each of us.
Our crosses will look different from each other, but the goal is the same: to come face to face with our Lord at the end of our life, confident that we spoke out about Him and desired nothing more than to seek Him first. Let's allow our hearts and minds to constantly be oriented towards Him, to help remind us always that it's not about us, but about Him.
Verse for reflection: For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? (Matthew 16:26)
Questions for reflection: Do I allow my heart to be conformed to the world? What is one "worldly" stumbling block that keeps me from going all in with Jesus?
Prayer: Jesus, give me courage to speak your truth and love to everyone around me. Help me live out my faith boldly. Help me seek what is good and acceptable and perfect in your eyes.