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Picking Up Our Crosses

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (03/09/2023)

(Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27)

Fr. Samuel Odeh

Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee” (Psalms 63:3).

What keeps us going after our efforts at serving the Lord, sharing his holy word, and ministering to others, are frustrated?  How do we deal with the dangers, persecutions, and difficulties we are most likely to face in the course of living out our calling?  In today’s first reading from Jeremiah, the prophet declares that God has duped him and deceived him into service. The only thanks he gets from this transaction was rejection and mockery from the people he was sent to reprimand for their violent and destructive ways.  In spite of this, the beauty, strength, and urgency of the word of God within Jeremiah’s heart is too precious to be bottled up, to be locked up.  In other words, Jeremiah cannot but preach; he must continue to announce God’s message even when it is rejected, or mocked.

In today’s second reading from Romans, Paul appeals to his audience to make their lives a “living sacrifice” to God, to avoid following the ways of the world that are not open to God, but to “be transformed” through the constant renewing of their minds, feeding on God’s holy word.  This way, they will not be confused about what God wants, about what is good, acceptable, holy, and perfect.  This in essence is what it means for a Christian to deny themselves and take up their crosses.

In today’s gospel reading from Matthew, we may ask if Peter would have preferred that Jesus stopped ministering and did not go up to Jerusalem so as to avoid being killed.  Peter, a short while ago, proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Messiah, God’s anointed one.  When Jesus insisted on going to Jerusalem to do the saving work of God, prepared to accept whatever outcome came his way, Peter disagreed.  Like many of us, Peter truly believes in Jesus and loves him, but is unwilling to accept God’s plan for himself through the mission of Jesus.  Many of us accept God’s call but prefer the paths of least resistance always.

Am I a believer who occasionally feels duped and cheated by God when I have tried to serve him?  Are we like Jeremiah who felt free to give vent to his disappointments and anger in prayer to God?  Am I a Christian who makes an effort to understand the word of God that I may practice it?  Am I like Peter needing to accept God’s plan for me in my life?  Am I allowing my instincts of self-preservation get in the way of my ability to make sacrifices and the call to give my life to Christ?  May we grow in our love of Christ and our desire to be with him just as he is always with us, now and forevermore.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).


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