HOMILY FOR THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: “TAKE UP YOUR CROSS… ”
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
1st: Jer. 20:7-9
2nd: Rom. 12:1-2
Gospel: Matt. 16:21-27
“No cross, no crown”, “No pain, no gain” are truisms we are all familiar with. They convey eternal truth but difficult to be appreciated by many who have fallen into some sort of religious escapism powered by prosperity gospel preachers. “I shall not suffer but I must succeed” and “It is not my portion” have become the trending philosophy of life. At the heart of this philosophy is cross-less Christianity and painless discipleship which contradict the message of Jesus Christ. Today, Jesus invites us to come to the reality of our Christian vocation and pick up our cross and follow him; knowing that the cross/suffering is not the end in itself but a means to an end.
In the first reading, Jeremiah who lived around 600 BC, having preached so hard without any result was disgusted and bitterly complains that he was seduced by God because the people hardened their hearts and refused to repent after hearing his preachings. He thought that following God would bring him breakthrough and successful ministry. Humanly speaking, his mission was a failure. He felt he was deceived with empty promises and false hope to follow God. This caused him mental agony. Also, in the gospel Peter was thinking in the same line with Jeremiah. He was disappointed to hear Jesus talk about himself as a suffering and defeated Messiah. Last Sunday he called Peter “the rock”, “On this rock I will build my church”. Today, he calls Peter “Satan”. Thus Peter moved from a building rock to a stumbling rock. We know people who were hitherto pillars and examples of faith but are now fallen because they felt ‘deceived’. They lacked understanding of cost of discipleship. Jesus clearly defines the terms and conditions of true discipleship as self denial and carrying the cross. Not even Peter could come between Christ and his cross so long as salvation of man was concerned. By this he emphasized the inevitability of the cross for achievement of anything meaningful.
Common sense tells us that no athlete makes it without serious and rigorous exercise. No student makes it without carrying the pain of burning midnight candles. But the trend in the world today is to make it in the easiest way possible. The get rich quick syndrome has become the order of the day. This has encouraged people to make money in fraudulent and mysterious ways. Recently a good number of ritual dens containing different human parts were discovered in different parts of the country. As 2019 is drawing near many politicians are crossing seven rivers and seven deserts to acquire mysterious powers for one political post or the other. These and more are the shades of a society that has rejected the cross. St. Paul in the second reading admonishes the Romans not to be conformed to this easy way of the world. Each of us has a cross to shoulder.
According to Father William Bausch, there are three types of crosses in Christianity: 1. The cross of inconvenience 2. The cross of witness 3.The cross of martyrdom. The cross of inconvenience is those things we do for the good of others that do not necessarily benefit us corporeally but rather bring us some discomfort. You carry the cross of inconvenience when you care for the sick, pray for others, help the poor and the needy, leaving your comfort zone to provide relief for those who suffer, etc. It is summarised in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The cross of witness is the pain we pass through in living the faith; bearing witness under the allurements of the world and seductions of the age. It is remaining pure in an impure world, being strong in a morally debased society. It is thinking differently and acting differently from the world. It is non conformity to the ways of world as St. Paul tells the Romans in the 2nd reading: “Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The third is the cross of martyrdom. Fr. John Pichapilly explains two types of martyrdom as wet and dry martyrdom. Wet martyrdom literally means shedding blood for Christ, like John the Baptist we just celebrated few days ago, all the apostles experienced wet martyrdom except John the beloved. Dry martyrdom has to do with giving up of your rights and privileges, security, titles, and more for Christ. Every state of life has a unique cross.
God has a purpose for the cross we bear. There is this story of three who were given a cross each by the Lord to carry to a designated place of rest. The first complained that his cross was too heavy and replaced it with another one made with light and soft wood. The second complained too and cut his cross to half to make it lighter. The third complained the same thing but shouldered it the way it was given, huge and heavy. The first man walked so fast and came to a river. He needed to use his cross as a bridge but it was impossible because it was too soft and could break easily. Shortly, the second man arrived at the river. He couldn’t also use his cross as a bridge because it was too short. After a very long time the third man arrived painfully at the river. He used his cross gainfully as a bridge to cross to the designated place of rest. The cross we bear today could be a bridge we shall use to cross to somewhere meaningful and rewarding tomorrow.
Is your cross too heavy? Nobody likes suffering. Everyone rejects it. Yet the more we reject it the more it comes to us. Jeremiah did not anticipate the mental pain he was passed through. Peter too taught that following Christ would be a breakthrough for his life aspirations. He wanted to follow a cross free Messiah. How do we deal with suffering as Christians? We must see our suffering in the light of Christ’s suffering. Christ did not suffer in vain, our suffering shall not be in vain if we unite it to that of Christ. We must understand that the gory of the cross of Christ was nothing compared to the glory of his resurrection. Every child of God must encounter some difficulty at some point in life walking along the cross-road. But if we remain strong and allow His way to hold sway over our way, it must surely end in praise!