22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. Bible Study: Jeremiah 20:7-9, Psalm 63, Romans 12:1-2 and Matthew 16:21-27
“Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” (Romans 12:1-2)
Last Sunday, we saw how Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever he binds on earth is bound in heaven and whatever he would loose on earth is loosed in heaven. Armed with this power and authority, Peter protested the fact that Jesus would have to suffer, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Peter said.
Dear friends, our first lesson today is that we must never stop praying for our religious authorities. From the time of Peter to date, men and women of God have had the tendency to abuse the enormous power and authority given to them by Jesus, the humble lamb who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Cf. Mark 10:45). Once we forget this fact, we become high-handed in our use of power, we could even be serving the purpose of the devil without knowing it.
Our second lesson today is to be attentive in spirit so as to detect the voice of Satan. The devil is a liar and a master in the art of deception. He will never come as a dragon with two horns, sharp teeth or long tail. No, he comes as a child of light, a trusted friend or even a lover and he would use the most subtle manner to seduce us into sin. After trying so hard to prevent Jesus from attaining glory without the cross (at the beginning of His public ministry), the devil tried again through Peter.
Jesus did not bother to address Peter as a person, He went straight to the source: “Get behind me, satan. You are a hindrance to me for you are not on the side of God but of men.” If we listen very well, some of the suggestions we receive from friends, co-workers and colleagues when we are going through some difficulties or trials are subtle inspirations of the devil. This is why we must be alert in spirit as St. Paul warns: “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance. (Ephesians 6:18)
The third lesson we learn today is: no cross, no crown. In recent times, there has been a wave of the Gospel of Prosperity among preachers, especially in Africa. With Governments failing woefully, people trooped to the Church to find solace. By failing to bring people to repentance and raise up God-fearing leaders, the Church has been practically reduced to a pub where people go to catch fun and feel good about themselves. Shouting loud “Amen” and “Alleluias” will not do us any good if after all that dancing and sweating we refuse to carry our cross daily and follow Jesus.
What does it mean to carry one’s cross? It is refusing to tell a lie when it seems more convenient to do so. It is embracing suffering gladly as the price for doing what is right. It is as St. Paul says in today’s second reading, presenting our bodies as living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God and this begins by consciously guarding the kind of thoughts we accommodate in our minds. This is not easy but then, bear in mind that there will be no crown for those who refuse to carry the cross. There will be no reward for those who follow the broad way, who are Christians only for convenience. (Cf. Matthew 7:13-14)
Our fourth lesson today is repentance from sin begins with renewing your mind. Do you feel stuck in sin? Have you tried so hard to stop a bad habit without success? Perhaps there is too much dirt and filth in your mind; too much immorality, lust and greed for worldly things. Transformation can only happen through the renewing of your mind. Renew your mind by reading good books such as the Bible, the lives of the Saints and books written by Saints. Spend not less than two hours every day reading. God’s people perish today due to their ignorance.
Stop looking at television shows and social media items targeted at the further destruction of your mind. If you are careful enough to drink only purified water or eat only hygienic foods as recommended by the doctor, why do you allow all kinds of evil things into your mind?
The fifth lesson for us today is to embrace persecution with gladness. Jesus tells us: “whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26). Have you ever been laughed at because of your dress code? Have you ever been called names, insulted or even rejected for standing by your beliefs and values? Even Jeremiah in today’s first reading says: “I have become a laughing stock all day; everyone mocks me.”
Let’s face it, though we live in the world, we do not belong to this world and the world hates us. (John 15:18-19) If you have not been experiencing this hatred, (if you have never suffered anything for the sake of God), it is a sign that you are yet to become a Christian. You have been trying so hard to gain the world that you have forgotten you do not belong to it so when opportunities came for you to testify to God and suffer, you quickly denied God and moved on.
In conclusion, we are only pilgrims on earth and at the end of our brief sojourn, we shall all face judgement. Jesus reminds us today: “the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” (Matthew 16:27). Don’t worry, whatever good or evil you do must surely come back to you with its full reward.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may the truth of your Word guide my life. Amen.
Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.