YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (1)

HOMILY FOR THE 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR A

THEME: THERE IS NO COSMOS WITHOUT THE CROSS
(No pain, no gain)

BY: REV. FR. GERALD MUOKA

 

HOMILY: R1 = Jer 20: 7-9
Resp. Ps. 63:2-6, 8-9
R2 = Rom 12:1-2
Gospel Matt 16:21-27

Some years ago, when Poland was still under Communist control, the Prime Minister ordered the crucifixes removed from classroom walls and other public places. Catholic Bishops attacked the ban, which had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented not and insisted in the removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms and public places.

One zealous Communist school administrator, Ryszard Dobrynski, took the crosses down from his seven lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the twenties.

Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses. The administrator promptly had these taken down as well. The next day two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in; after which they marched round the streets with crucifixes held high above their heads. The procession was concluded in a nearby Church where they were joined by almost 5250 other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in support of the protest.

The priest who came out of the church to address them, delivered a powerful message to the weeping congregation that morning with the theme: “There is no Poland without the cross.

Indeed, there is no Poland without the cross and there is no cosmos without the cross. Infact, without the cross, the world will collapse, because the foundation and redemption of the world were wrought and perfected upon the cross.

Beloved in Christ, the readings of today’s liturgy charge us with the reality of accepting the excruciating and hard way of the cross as the only and true cost of discipleship and success in life, because, the lessons of the cross are as follows: No pain, no gain; No thorns, no rose; No hustle, no win; No difficulties, no heroism; No Good Friday, no Easter Sunday.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus chides us, “not to crave the rose if we are not ready to handle the thorns”, by charging us to carry our own crosses, individually, and follow him.

Every message of the cross, is usually prone to rejection from the cradle, because we live in a society where:

~ The youngsters want to become famous, heroes, rich and influential without sacrifice and hard work, under the guise: “small girl with a bigger God and Oluwa or Jah bless my hustle”.

~ Where parents want to enjoy fruit of labour without contributing hard and sowing in training their children to an enviable moral and spiritual standards.

~ We desire abundant life without Christ, the ultimate Life.

~ We desire Easter Sunday without Good Friday.

THE TRADITIONAL/JEWISH SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CROSS.

The cross for the Jews, represents barbarity and cruelty. It is a symbol of shame, weakness and disgrace.
It was an traditional way of punishing miscreants and offenders; that was why Jesus was crucified alongside two other criminals.

(a) The cross is a scandal (Greek “scandalon”-“offence or stumbling block”) to the Jews (Gal. 5:11).

(b)The cross was a curse scripture, “cursed is he hangs upon the cross” (Deut. 21:23). So, the Jews regard anyone hanging on the tree as one who is irrevocably cursed by God.

(c)The cross deflates human pride and ego(Phil.2:8).

(d) The cross to the Jews is an obstacle they cannot get over, to the gentiles foolishness (1 Cor. 1:23).

(e) In Israeli schools, writing the “plus” sign is frowned upon, because it looks too much like a cross.
The addition symbol we use here in Israel looks like this: ﬩ , like an upside down ‘T’. A regular plus sign (+) looks way too much like a cross, and is carefully avoided in the Israeli school system as a result.

Beloved in Christ, imagine the brand of life Jesus is advertising for us- becoming AMBASSADORS of curse-cruelty-shame-obstacle-derision-rejection-self-abandonment and self-denial.
GOD FORBID! I SAY, AGAIN, GOD FORBID! It is not your portion in Jesus name…. Aaaaaaaaame….n
Any christianity with anchoring and promoting brand of Aaaaaaaaamen is satanic and devilish, bereft of salvation, just as Jesus makes it clear to Peter by calling him “satan”; Hence, a crossless Christian is a Christless Christian undergoing crisis.

Little wonder, Bishop Michael Eneja of Blessed Memory, defined holiness as: ” liking ones dislikes and hating ones likes for the sake of Christ.

ARE YOU READY TO TAKE UP THE CROSS?
THREE MAJOR STEPS ABOUND:

After correcting Peter for trying to divert him from what would be his way of the cross in Jerusalem, Jesus declares three conditions for any who would become and live as his disciples: a) deny yourself b) take up your cross and c) follow me.

(A) SELF ABANDONMENT
(deny yourself)

Self denial/abandonment is rendered in Greek as “aparneomai” – “to deny onself”, which is more like to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests; more still to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with self.

At the heart of this principle is asking what God expects of me in every situation, even when it does not conform with my human standards and principles. I can put aside my ego in order to allow peace to reign in my family, marriage, relationships and community.

The principle of self abandonment was a major instrument Abraham used in winning the heart of God, by his willingness to offer his one and only heir to his generation, to the point that God swore an oath for his good (Gen.22:16). God expects us to put Him first, our neighbour second, before ourselves(Mk. 12:30-31).

We equally see Jeremiah’s exemplary model of carrying the cross. He was rejected, crushed, assaulted and forsakened, yet he never abandoned the cross, even when he did, God persuaded him that it is only self denial and abandonment that guarantee life in Christ.

(2) SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT (Take up your cross)

The second reading chided us not to model our lives according to the standards of the world.

The cross is already a rejected emblem for the world. So those who love Jesus should swim against the world’s notion of the cross as a curse, shame, loss, death, scandal and offensive.

We live in an age where everyone wants to be successful by hook and crook; and achieve some goals according to the worldly standards of deceit, profiteering, racketeering, body hawking, corruption and bribery.

Avoiding these standards amounts to waiting more and worst still being denied some favours and being seen as a failure according to human standards.

However, avoiding these steps is the pain we undergo inorder to gain and win with Christ who won through suffering and who is an expert in turning nothing into something and turning a nobody into somebody.

In Christ, the cross became the way to gain, life, happiness and joy, as against the worldly standards of loss, shame, death and disgrace.

Remember, Shedrack Meshach, Abednego and Daniel who never succumbed to the threats and standard of the world (Dan. 3:25; 6:3).
Jeremiah was exceptionally outstanding and against the standard of the Jews. He was hated, that was the cross he bore for Christ sake.

(3) ALLOW JESUS TO PRESS YOUR “MUMU BUTTON” (Follow me).

To follow someone who has asked us to “take up our cross” daily seems foolish. In the words of St Paul, “here we are fools for Christ”(1 Cor.4:10), allow Jesus to touch your “mumu button”. According to Bishop Fulton Sheen, “to be a fool for Christ is the greatest compliment the world can give.

However, Origen had suggested that Jesus while rebuking Peter “satan go behind me”, was saying to Peter: “Peter, your place is behind me, not in front of me. It’s your job to follow me in the way I choose, not to try to lead me in the way YOU would like me to go.”

There is an ancient legend about Peter, at the time of the great persecution under Nero, the Christians of Rome told Peter to leave. “You’re too valuable,” they said. “Get out of town! Find your safety! Go to another place and preach the Gospel.” Peter hastily hurried out of town as fast as he could. But as he hurried along the Appian Way, away from the Eternal City, he was met by Christ, going toward the city. Peter said to him in Latin, “Quo vadis, Domine?” “Where are you going, Lord?” To which Jesus replied, “Back to Rome, to be crucified with my people. Where are you going, Peter?” Peter’s eyes filled with tears of remorse, as he turned and walked back to Rome, where, according to tradition, he was crucified head downward, feeling that he was not worthy to die in the same manner as had his Lord. Jesus’ question to Peter comes to us also. “Where are you going?” Are we going with Christ, or away from him and from his cross?

Beloved in Christ, the cross is indeed a paradox:

~It is a death sentence in the world, but a “cross over” to the world to come.

~It is scandalous to worldly wisdom and human reason, yet of inestimable worth, a pearl of great price in the celestial realms.

~It is a cruel process that elicits pain and tears in the eyes of the world, yet a true treasure and unspeakable source of joy and God’s glory.

MY CROSS MY SALVATION
MY PAIN MY GAIN
MY SORROW MY JOY

~When placed flat on the ground- it becomes a bridge against the gully erosions of life challenges

~When placed on the wall, it becomes a ladder to climb to PROMINENCE and ETERNITY

~ When viewed with the binocular of Mathematics, it becomes a plus + or additional sign

~ When placed in a traversed position, it becomes (x)times..sign of MULTIPLICATION (restoration) of lost fortunes for Christ’s sake (Matt. 16:25; Job 42:10).

BENEDICTIONS:

MAY GOD HELP US NOT TO CONFORM TO THE STANDARDS OF THE WORLD. MAY WE NEVER LOSE HEART AS WE REMAIN STRONG AND RESOLUTE IN DOING YOUR WILL, OH LORD! AMEN.

GOD BLESS YOU!
HAPPY SUNDAY!

REV FR GERALD MUOKA


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