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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A

Remember last Sunday’s Gospel? Peter made that great confession of faith in Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” That, in turn, made Jesus name Peter the rock on whom Jesus would build his Church.

Today’s Gospel passage shows us another Peter and another Jesus. What triggered this change in Peter and in Jesus?

It starts with Jesus filling in the details on how he will become the Messiah. It will be by going the path of suffering, of being rejected and killed; only then will he be raised and established as the Messiah. No way, argues Peter, that is out of the question, that is unthinkable. There must be another way, a more reasonable way. Then Jesus lashes out against Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are a stumbling block to me.” Imagine! From rock Peter becomes a stumbling block. Why? Because the two disagree on how God’s reign is to be ushered in.

But Jesus does not leave it with “putting Peter in his place.” Jesus continues and suggests that the path he will have to go is normative for all who confess him; that is to say, for us too: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” What a hard saying! These are not exactly popular words. These are difficult words to hear, even more difficult to put into practice.

Denying ourselves, taking up our cross, losing our life for Christ’s sake in order to find the true life. Wow! The least we can say of that is that Jesus is not giving some helpful advice on how to “live the good life.”

Where do we go with these harsh words of Jesus, especially when we apply them to the humdrum every-day-existence most of us live? I remember someone exclaiming: “It is sometimes easier to die for Christ than to live for him!” There is a lot of truth in that.

To live for Christ, to follow him, to deny oneself, to take up the cross has a lot to do with what I mentioned last week as being the stuff on which Christ builds his Church: caring for those who are in need; being prepared to forgive; refraining from seeking ways to get even; passing no judgment on others; seeking peace, reconciliation, justice; sharing the goods of the earth with others. And all this not as a good deed here and a good deed there, but rather as a pattern of life. That is really taking up the cross, denying oneself in the humdrum every-day-Christian existence. It is never finished.

But look at the promise that Jesus connects with it. It is ushering in God’s kind of world right among us.

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