TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY A: HOMILY BY Fr. Matthias Lusembo
THEME: WHOEVER WANTS TO BE A CHRISTIAN MUST DENY HIMSELF/HERSELF, TAKE UP HIS/HER CROSS AND FOLLOW CHRIST
The Objective of the homily is that we get convinced that where there is no pain there is no gain.
In last Sunday’s Gospel text, Peter confessed that Jesus is the expected Savior. Jesus ordered his disciples to keep that secret to themselves, because the disciples and all Israelites expected a Savior to subdue all earthly rulers and never to suffer or die. Yet, in Matthew 16: 21, Jesus reveals that he is going to be rejected and condemned like Jeremiah. – In fact he suffered and died in order to liberate people from their sins.
Whereas Jesus is convinced of the motto “no pain no gain”, Peter is not. Like Satan did in the desert, Peter tempts Jesus to avoid the eminent suffering. Immediately Jesus orders Peter to get behind him so as not to mislead him from his cross. – That is the way we are supposed to deal with temptations -.
Jesus adds promptly: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mt 16: 24). That is to say whoever wants to become or remain a Christian ( a disciple/follower of Christ) must renounce his or her will, or comfort and do the will of God. This does not simply mean to endure pain, or sickness or other difficult circumstances, – even non-Christians endure such things -, but always to obey God’s commandments whatever the situation may be.
It implies enduring persecutions or pain caused by serving Christ and his people. It connotes abandoning sinful pleasures. It may also necessitate patience with sinners in the Church or family as we pray for their repentance, as Saint Monica did. So, those who abandon the Church, because it is following God’s commandments strictly or because it makes some mistakes, are throwing away their crosses.
A frequently asked question is: Why do I have to carry a cross when Jesus already carried it for me?
Many Christian denominations have stumbled on this question and mislead God’s people, advocating for an easy life; a life contrary to Christian principles. These people are like some parents who say: “We worked hard; now we want our children to have an easy life;” thereby spoiling them. In any case, the best a parent can do is to instill God’s commandments in the children, even if God’s commandments may prove to be crosses to both parents and children.
Brothers and Sisters in God, our Father, listen carefully and get the point correctly. The one telling us to deny ourselves and carry our crosses is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the Founder of our Church who denied himself, took up his cross and died on it for the salvation of sinners. Please, we should not put Jesus at par with mere human beings, seeking their own interests.
After his suffering and death Jesus was in the best position to declare to all his disciples that there are no more crosses in the world; no more sins; no hell anymore; but he did not make that declaration. Instead, he added; “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23). This means that the cross of fighting against sin is still to be carried.
Then what is the use of Christ’s suffering and death? Through his suffering and death Christ opened the heavenly door to everybody; but this does not mean that even dirty souls, souls without sanctifying grace are welcome in heaven. Our crosses purify us and win sanctifying graces for us.
We need to identify our crosses and carry them happily up to death as Jesus did. What is my cross? What is your cross? See Luke 6:27.
May the body and blood of Christ strengthen us to carry our crosses.