22nd Sunday Of Ordinary Time – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Seduced By Christ”.
In the first reading, Jeremiah complains that God has seduced him. He was convinced that following God would lead him to success and an easy life; instead he ended up in what seemed a total failure.
The second reading is very close to this same theme because it invites us not to conform to the way people think, that is with the minds of the world.
The new life of the Christian cannot, in fact, be acceptable to most people.
In the Gospel, we see that Peter thinks like Jeremiah and does not want to accept a suffering and defeated Messiah. Jesus then spells out clearly the conditions for those who want to follow him, so that nobody will tell him what we heard in the first reading: ‘that you seduced me with flatteries and false promises’.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
The first reading today takes us to Jerusalem during the dramatic years that precede the capture and the destruction of the city by the Babylonians. The country is on the brink of collapse and the king, Jehoiakim, is unfit to rule and makes the most foolish political alliances. The people, deceived by their spiritual leaders, put their trust blindly in the Temple, in sacrifices, in their rituals without any corresponding interior conversion of the heart and respect for the Law of God. Their religion is empty, false and deceptive. It is ritualistic and God is excluded.
Amid this confusion God calls Jeremiah and sends him to censure the people for their impiety and to threaten imminent destruction of their city if there isn’t an immediate conversion to God. Both the king and the religious leaders are far from willing to change their ways. Even the ordinary people take offence at the words of the prophet and demand his execution. He is arrested, beaten up, but the prophet defends himself and is set free in court.
These events have shocked Jeremiah badly, his cries of grief that we are reading about today rise from his heart. Jeremiah is comparing his call to be a prophet to the seduction of a girl who, after being deceived by the flattering word of a boyfriend, has yielded to his requests, only soon to be abandoned. This is how Jeremiah is feeling now: abandoned by God, alone and the object of scorn and violence on the part of the people.
Why did God call on him to undertake a mission that is going to be a complete failure? Why did he yield to temptation, why did he not stay with his family and work the fields in the quiet town of Anatot? In his despair he even exclaims: “I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name anymore”. But the Lord has put a fire in his heart, such a burning fire that it cannot be put out. In spite of his terrible trials Jeremiah cannot abandon his mission.
The experience of Jeremiah is repeated in the case of all those who are seduced by God and accept to carry out a special mission in their lives. Sufferings and persecutions will be inevitable. It is good they know this from the start, because God does not want to deceive anybody.
God had not promised Jeremiah an easy and honoured life. He had invited him to be the announcer of his message of salvation to the people. The prophet responded to this call and in spite of all the suffering he had to go through, he was finally convinced that it was worthwhile.
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9.
The Psalm describes David’s wandering in the desert. Thirst for water put him in mind of his thirst for God. Life is a valuable possession, yet the love of God can mean even more. We all live in the shadow of God’s wings (Dt 32:10), awaiting a final banquet in God’s house (Is 55:1-3).
The first words of today’s reading in Romans remind us that the solemn liturgies of the Temple are now replaced by a new way of praising God: the sacrifice of one’s life given up for others.
What Paul tells us here is very important: If our liturgies are not celebrations of a life of love, then our religion is just completely void, it has no content, and it is just a show of useless formalism. In the second verse, Paul warns Christians not to model themselves on the behaviour of the world around them. It is easy to be influenced and conditioned by public opinion: to accept that something is right because it is the way everybody behaves, thinks and speaks.
We as Christians have to discover and discern the behaviour and values that is pleasing to God, even if it is not to humanity’s taste or ways. The Christian today is often taken in by the logic of success. Are we not tempted to agree with the strong, with the winner, with those who prevail and can make themselves heard? Is this the way of thinking “according to God or according to the ways of the world”?
Today’s Gospel is a continuation of the scene of last Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 16:13-20) where Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah. Now Jesus confirms that indeed, he is the Messiah but that he will be rejected, suffer, die and rise from the dead. This is contrary to all their expectations.
Hearing these words Peter begins to quiver with shock, frustration and anger. He cannot accept the idea that the Messiah will be humiliated. He had always believed that the Messiah would never be defeated. All the rabbis thought that the Messiah would never die, he would start an era of happiness without end for the just. So what is this strange talk of Jesus about?
Peter decides that he must straighten things out immediately. He draws Jesus aside “remonstrates with him and reacts by saying aloud what the other disciples are thinking. Jesus’ reply is very hard on Peter who is not just making a minor mistake; but is unknowingly moving in a direction that is exactly opposite to the plan of God. He is acting just like the devil in the desert who was offering him power over the kingdoms of the world (Mt 4:8-10). This is why the reaction of Jesus is the same: “Get behind me, Satan!” What the apostle proposes is not according to God, but to the logic of man and the world.
It is easy here to see a connection with the Gospel of last Sunday. Peter inspired by the Father, accepts his plan of salvation by professing his faith in Jesus, and becomes a ‘living stone’ (a Rock) of the Church. But when he keeps thinking according to the logic of man, when he harbours thoughts of overpowering enemies and similar ways of establishing God’s kingdom, he becomes instead a stone that is an obstacle in the path to salvation.
Often we simply do not hear what we don’t want to hear. When a message is unpleasant or painful, we simply block it out and prevent it from touching us. This is what happened to the disciples. They fail to hear what Jesus is saying about suffering and dying and he has to repeat it. All the Gospel writers state that Jesus said it three times.
Jesus is not put off by their reaction. He goes on to say that his fate is in fact the fate of all those who will follow him. The acceptance of the ‘Cross’ and suffering is part and parcel of ‘Christian witness’ but it will lead to the victory of life over death. Peter and the disciples know the danger involved for Jesus and for themselves. They know that they will not be able to protect him from powerful leaders. Jesus does not back away from the danger. He invites his frightened followers to walk courageously with him because there is not only the risk of suffering and death; there is also the promise of rising again to ‘new life’. Life always has the last word even when the forces of death appear victorious.
In the second part of today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the conditions for those who want to follow him: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his Cross”. The latter demands that those who wish to follow are to give up personal ambition and selfishness. “The disciple must bear patiently the ‘crosses’ of life”. It means to follow the same path as Jesus did, live his ideals and virtues, and accept being persecuted or ignored in order to remain faithful to the Gospel.
In the following verses we are given three reasons why these conditions are necessary: “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?”
The first reason: whoever gives up his life, is not losing it, he finds it.
The second reason: life in this world passes quickly. It is no use hanging on to it as if it were everything.
The third reason: the final reward.
Is there anything a person can take with them at the end of their life; the money they have accumulated, the pleasures enjoyed, the triumphs experienced and trophies won? No, the only thing left to take with us will be the ‘gratuitous love’ we were able to give to others.
If tuned into God’s plans we will become bridges enabling people to relate to God, but barriers and obstacles if we ‘model our behaviour on the world around us’
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the
‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
22nd. Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year A, we reflect on: ….
Sun … Jeremiah is burdened by a ministry he does not want, and pained by the hostility of his own people, which he deeply resents. He also feels that he has been deceived by God and that God has forced him into an impossible situation. Do we automatically expect that by doing God’s will it will bring us happiness and contentment here and now?
Mon … When Jeremiah tries not to proclaim God’s word, God’s message becomes like a burning fire within him and he can’t hold it in. God’s message of truth cannot be contained; it must be proclaimed, even if it brings hostility and resentment. Sometimes our mission is to ‘root up and tear down’. In the midst of strong contradictions we need to keep faith and trust in God’s will and his plan of salvation and never fall into despair.
Tues … The experience of Jeremiah is repeated by all those who are called by God to carry out a special mission in their lives. Sufferings and persecutions will be inevitable. To deny your mission is to deny your purpose. To deny his calling is to become an obstacle in his plan of salvation.
Wed … In the second reading Paul tells the Christians in Rome to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice”. God’s gift of self to us prompts us to return that gift by sacrificing ourselves for God and for others. This is our “living sacrifice”, our giving of self.
Thurs … Peter got his name, meaning a ‘rock’, to indicate his calling to authority and to be the foundation of the Church. In denying that Jesus must suffer, Peter in his single mindedness is becoming an obstacle to the plan and will of God. Are we rocks that are foundation or obstacles? Are we bridges or barriers? Something to think about: ‘If we persist in being obstacles and barriers and not tuned into God’s plans, we too could be called by a new name’…‘ Satan’.
Frid … The ‘Way of the Cross’ that Jesus outlines for himself is the ‘way of renunciation’ all his followers are called to tread. Jesus faced suffering which could be conquered only if he accepted it. He faced rejection that could be transformed only if he assented to it. If the suffering was to pass, it had to be endured: For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but if anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”.
Sat … Jesus is our suffering companion in our lives. He proves to be our strength; his power is mighty in our weakness. If the Cross is the price to pay for love, then carrying it is love’s proof in action. For Jesus, that is enough. The Cross can be our way too to prove our love for God and for others.
Prayer After Daily Reflections:
Father, help us to understand the lessons learned from taking up our Crosses. May we begin to realize Your presence more in our struggles and our failures. Let us remember that when we have been lost and have felt completely powerless, only then have we been open to your love and great power and ready to grow spiritually to become the kind of people that You wanted us to be.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.