Sunday, August 31, 2014

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 16: 21-27 - "Suffering Servants" or "No Pain, No Gain"

We are called to live a radical life!  
We are a people called to live counter-culturally to the secular world!
We live in this world, but are called to live in ways not of this world.
We are called to live by God’s will, not man’s will.  
The ways of this world are not God’s ways.  What this world reveres is not what gives glory to God or gains us entry into His heavenly kingdom.

Poor Jerimiah!  He is called by God to warn the people that their ways - are the ways of destruction.  He goes to the people on God’s behalf and is made a laughingstock.  He speaks the word of God to the people and they not only ridicule him and deride God’s message, but imprison and torture poor Jerimiah.  

His sufferings are great; for bringing God’s warning to the people of punishment for their sinful life.  Jeremiah is filled with the word of God.  He would like to choose safety – keeping quiet, hidden; so the people would not bring him sufferings, but God’s word burns within him.  He is fairly bursting at the seams to speak the will of God to the people.  He cannot keep quiet and so bears the sufferings inflicted upon him.   God’s word is not what the people want to hear, but is necessary to their salvation.  The people want to go about their sinful lives unmindful of God’s will.  Jeremiah suffers greatly because he must speak God’s truth.

Paul tells us that there are sacrifices we must suffer in this world for living God’s truth.  The sufferings of those who discern the will of God are acceptable and pleasing to Him.  God’s servants bring His truth to His people, so they may have life.  Discerning the will of God and living in His truth is the call of Christian baptism.  This world holds no treasure or reward.  Those are found only in the kingdom of God for those who listen to His word and observe it. 

In last week’s Gospel, Peter calls Jesus, “. . . the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus tells him that no human has told him this, but it is revealed to him by God, the Father.  

God’s revelation to Peter of the truth of Jesus is clear, but today, Peter’s humanness, his fear clouds God’s revelation of the Truth.  Peter fails to discern God’s truth of the necessity for Jesus’ coming Passion.  Peter, when Jesus tells the disciples of what lays ahead for him in Jerusalem is, in his humanness, fearful.

Peter, like many of the Jews, is looking for liberation from the Roman oppressors.  He seeks what is immediately expedient in his worldly life, not what is God’s plan for His people.  He seeks a warrior king, to come, with force, to overthrow the Romans.  The Jews seek liberation to live as an autonomous people, not salvation to live as God’s holy people.  

Peter fails to recognize God’s will.  His admonition to Jesus is only from Peter’s human perspective.  God’s plan is obscured from Peter’s heart.  He cannot understand how the death and rising of Jesus will bring about God’s salvation for his people.  Peter thinks to himself, “How can Jesus’ mission continue, if he is dead?” And maybe more self-indulgently, “What will happen to me and the rest of our group, if Jesus is gone?  Where will we go, what will we do, what will become of us?”  All very human questions and human reactions to Jesus foretelling of his suffering, crucifixion and resurrection.

We hear in Romans 11:33:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord . . .?”
Knowing the mind of God, discerning His will is the life to which all Christians strive.  By our baptism, we are charged, “To go forth making disciples of all nations . . .” Our mission is to bring God’s Word to all people.  In His love, we are called to remind the people that they are God’s beloved children.  God seeks his beloved creations to leave this sinful world behind, the place of the evil-one, to be welcomed home into the peace of His heavenly kingdom.

When we look at the world today and how ever increasingly secularism pervades our culture, we may feel daunted and despaired, like Jeremiah.  We may want to hide our Christian faith, blend into the cultural background.  Keeping silent the Word of God within us for fear and shame of what the world may think of us and do to us.  We too may be afraid of becoming a laughingstock for speaking God’s Truth.  Truth that goes counter-culture to the world’s beliefs on family, marriage, the sanctity of life, the very existence of God and the pervasiveness of evils in the world.

We may feel the better part of valor is discretion: avoiding the sacrifices we will be called to make in standing up for what is holy and pleasing to God.  Conforming ourselves to the cultural beliefs – du jour - may give us momentary peace among the sinfulness of this world, but will lead us to eternal sufferings in our life beyond.  

Be transformed! – Be counter-cultural! – Discern the will of God!  Hear His Truths in your heart, observe all that He teaches us through our Lord, Jesus Christ and go forth preaching the Good News to all people!

Be mindful of God’s will.  Listen to His voice and never tire of doing what is good, what is right, what is holy and pleasing to Him.  Lose your life to the evils of this world and find everlasting life in God’s heavenly kingdom.  For what treasures can we bring with us or of what worldly honors can we boast to bribe or impress He who sits on the judgment seat at the gates to eternal life? ~ Amen

Deacon Don

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