Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Twenty Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Sep 3, 2017 Views 217 Listen 16 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the first Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (20:7-9)

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violent and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9)


(R) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the Earth, parched, lifeless and without water. (R)

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory, for your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify you. (R)

Thus will I bless you while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name. As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you. (R)

You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy. My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (12:1-2)

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:21-27)

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priest, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit one's life? Or what can one give in exchange for one's life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct."

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

Today's gospel is a continuation of last Sunday's gospel, Matthew (16:13-20). It leads us to the time when Jesus had taken his disciples to the base of Mount Hermon at Caesarea Philippi. It was a place for ancient pagan gods and also the main source of the River Jordan. It was the setting for a very important conversation that took place between Jesus and his disciples. Up until this time, Jesus had been performing several roles: as prophet, reformer, healer, preacher and rabbi or teacher of the Law. Besides, Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man.

So, Jesus questioned the disciples about what they and others thought of him. They answered that people believed He was a reincarnation of one of the ancient prophets, either Elijah or Jeremiah, or the last prophet, John the Baptist, whom Jesus considered to be the greatest of all of the prophets who had come before Him. But Simon confessed that Jesus was the Messiah or the Christ, the Son of the living God. Simon's confession showed that, perhaps, having known Jesus personally, he and the other disciples were starting to believe Jesus to be more than a man or a prophet. And Jesus, clearly pleased with Simon's understanding and faith, changed his name to "Peter" and further declared that he would be instrumental in establishing His Church. And at the same time, Jesus reminded him that the understanding behind it did not come from himself but by revelation from God the Father.

However, from today's gospel narrative, we realise that Peter seemed so near and yet was so far from understanding the nature of Jesus' messiahship, Matthew (16:21-27). Because, after instructing His disciples not to speak of him as the Messiah, Jesus continued to reveal more about what lay ahead of him. Specifically, He predicted His own rejection "by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed". But, Peter could not imagine the Messiah dying at the hands of his enemies. Like other Jews of the day, Peter was holding fast to God's promise of the one who would come with divine powers to deliver Israel from its enemies and establish a prosperous earthly kingdom.

So, he took Jesus aside to tell Him not to speak of such things and that God would not permit any harm to happen to Him. But the reality is that it was not God who was forbidding; it was Peter who was forbidding Jesus to do God's mission. It was almost like a disciple (Peter) telling his Master (Jesus) to follow him in his way of thinking. So, Jesus used the strongest language possible to rebuke Peter. He said, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do", Matthew (16:23). Here, Peter acted as a tempter, a deceiver or an enemy of God's purpose. He tried to tempt Jesus to deviate from His divinely ordained mission of attaining glory through the way of the cross.

Jesus called Peter "Satan", and he did not stop there. He further made it clear that those who, like Peter, confess that He is the Messiah and wish to be His disciples should be willing to do so under three conditions:

  • Self-denial - Self-denial is not self-rejection but the sustained or constant willingness to say "no" to self and "yes" to God. It means renouncing self-interest; disregarding the gratification of one's own needs and desires; relinquishing one's own will to do the will of God; and, following the example of Jesus, serve the needs of others with humility rather than wanting to please only themselves.
  • Taking up the cross - To "take up one's cross" means to willingly give one's life without reservation to Jesus Christ. It involves accepting everything unpleasant, painful, sad, difficult and oppressive that may happen to us in life, without complaint.
  • Following Jesus - Following Jesus means to be in submission to His will. It also means a willingness to walk in His footsteps or live as He lived; imitate His example in deeds of compassion for the needy; forgive one's offenders without limit and conditions; overcome evil with good and so on.

After teaching His disciples about the need for them to pick up their cross daily in order to follow Him, Jesus drew their attention to the great options before them. He said, "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it", Matthew (16:25). This choice leads a person, seeking to preserve his temporal life at the expense of his conscience by forsaking Christ and the Gospel, to lose his eternal life; while another seeking to forego all the pleasures, comforts and conveniences for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, to enjoy an immortal and eternal life.

Then Jesus posed two great questions to them. He asked, "What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit one's life? Or what can one give in exchange for one's life", Matthew (16:26)? To gain the whole world is to receive all that the world has to offer - money, fame, pleasure, power, prestige, etc. To forfeit or lose one's life is to die without the right relationship with Christ and to spend an eternity in the fires of hell. Through this statement, Jesus was saying that no cost was too high to gain eternal life for one's soul or, to put in another way, there is nothing more valuable than one's life or soul. Having said that, Jesus then foretold that, in the end, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, will come with all His angels and reward each person according to his deeds.

What is the message for us?

  • While we do pray to God not to lead us into temptation, we should be just as careful not to walk into temptation. Because there is a tempting tendency in all of us to escape bearing our personal crosses but also to encourage those who are dear to us not to carry them, just as Peter tried to persuade Jesus away from the road to Golgotha. Sometimes, even well-meaning friends or companions might try drawing us away from the path of sacrifice and self-denial taught by Christ, and towards the worldly path of working purely for self-interest and self-glory.
  • If we would be His disciples, Jesus demands our exclusive commitment to Him. His teaching about losing and finding life challenges us to make a choice between living life exclusively for one's self, for one's own gains and pleasures and renouncing one's own security and comfort for the good of others.
  • We need to pray always that we may become Jesus' faithful disciples by embracing our daily crosses; have courage and determination to say "no" to ourselves and say "yes" to our path of sacrifice; and follow Jesus every day by denying ourselves and walking in His footsteps along the way of the cross.
(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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