Gospel Reflection Sept 3 – Deacon Frank
Sunday, September 3
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 16: 21-27
Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, 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 his life?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
Many of you may be familiar with the fable about the “pig and the chicken” who were discussing the possibility of opening a restaurant together. “We could call it ‘Bacon and Eggs'” says the chicken. Each of us could make our own contribution to the menu.” The pig considers it for a moment: “The problem with that” the pig says, “is that you’d be only involved, but I would have to be totally committed.”
In this weekend’s gospel, Jesus says: “…if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross, and follow me.” What he is asking for is more than simply being involved in his mission, but total dedication, even to the point of self-sacrifice. It seems a strange strategy for attracting followers. And, indeed, the Gospels tell us that many potential disciples did walk away from Jesus. He asked people not simply to make a one-off decision for him, but rather to walk the walk, and not simply talk the talk. He is asking for genuine disciples, not fair-weather admirers. That initial decision for him has to be translated into lifelong and total dedication, even when the consequences are painful.
Throughout this Sunday’s familiar gospel story of Peter trying to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem is also well-known after Peter declares Jesus, as we heard in last weekend’s gospel, to be “the Christ – the Son of the Living God.” Perhaps Peter tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross, not simply because he cared for Jesus, but because he guessed that where Jesus went, he would eventually have to follow. Jesus’ response to Peter is also an invitation to every would-be follower: “Get behind me,” in other words, “Take your place as my disciple, my follower. Follow me on the road to the cross, and I promise you life, joy, and fulfillment.”
The things that are most worthwhile in our lives always cost: the huge efforts people make to be good parents to their children, or the dedication needed to make a marriage work. Consider the loyalty people show in friendships, or in caring for someone who is ill. Nothing worthwhile in life is achieved without effort, dedication, and self-sacrifice. A cross-shaped life, Jesus tells us, is not just what makes this life worth living here, and now; it is what makes us fit for eternal life.
Deacon Frank Iannarino