22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Homily)
We hear in the Gospel text this week i.e., “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt 16: 24).
I know a woman who converted to Catholicism. She was baptised after going through the RCIA programme and promised to be a true a follower of Christ. It was not even a year when she started facing many crisis in her faith and her life. Her husband fell sick and was unable to work. She had to raise her three toddler children at that time whilst looking after and caring for her husband. She suddenly became the breadwinner of her home till today. One day, she had shared with me her grieve and regrets for being a convert.
I shared with her that Our God doesn’t make mistakes in choosing her to be His follower. He doesn’t just close His eyes and randomly pick anyone. God chose her and He has one or more purpose. He knew all of her weaknesses, and strengths, and abilities! He chose to use her to be His followers so that her life may shine as a hope for those around her who doesn’t know Jesus. She must place God first then every other need in her life and every other desire of life. God provides everything she needs to be happy and fulfilled. To be a follower of Christ, it is a life-long commitment, as she must surrender herself to the Lord and to His will.
None of us likes to face suffering, hardship and pain. We are not free from any physical illnesses, sicknesses, worries, anxieties, frustrations, etc. We will never be prepared for any of those, let alone to carry crosses fully with all our heart, in our lives. We just want to avoid crosses and run away from these reality of life – from trials and sufferings.
What should our attitude be towards trials, sufferings and hardships?
We must understand that these trials and hardships are placed in our path to test our faith, our endurance and our perseverance.
The first reading (Jer 20: 7-9) is one of my favourite texts.
At times, I truly felt the way Jeremiah felt in his ministry. Jeremiah said, “You have seduced me, Lord, and I have let myself be seduced!” Being a very young Prophet, he felt that his life was full of tortures and humiliations, that he had to face continuously at battle with his own people. Jesus himself, underwent humiliations, sufferings and cruel death.
God does not seduce us. God tests us and He disciplines and build us up, as we face these trials and sufferings. Jeremiah learned from his anguish and responded to God’s call to be a Prophet eventually. As for me I know following God’s call is a life-long commitment. At times, I feel very exhausted doing God’s work and to look after the growth of my Parish. I strongly believe that the Lord provides me the time and energy as I set my priority in my daily commitments. He gives me the strength to do His will in my ministry that is to live my priesthood and to live a life of love. Definitely rejuvenated every day.
So what is your cross? What cross must you take up and carry in order for the Lord’s work to be done? Why do we trust God and why do we follow Jesus even though He leads you into difficult and sticky situations, allowing us to go on with very painful moments in life?
The world may load us down with heavy baggage till we may find ourselves hard to move ahead and feeling hopeless in living our daily commitment as disciples of Christ. What Jesus said in today’s Gospel, “Get behind me Satan?” Whenever we find difficulties and struggles in following the footstep of Jesus, we should just say to the Satan – “Get behind me, Satan!
We must love God and we must be willing to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice as Jesus did in your very personal and intimate way. We need to have a consistent discipline in praying, spending time reading the Word of God, discerning His will in our lives and desiring to serve His people.
Jesus has reminded his disciples and all us today of what attitude we need to have when we undergo suffering and anguish in life. Remember this. First, we must be able to accept all kinds of crosses, sufferings and hardships in this life. Do not deny our Christian faith. Then we have to be patient, trust God, have confidence in following Jesus’s footsteps. We need to be loyally living faith in Christ, cheerfully and joyfully.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy