Renewing Our Minds, Offering Our Bodies, Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), August 28, 2011 Audio Homily

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Anthony of Padua Church, New Bedford, MA
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
August 28, 2011
Jer 20:7-9, Ps 63:2-6 8-9, Rm 12:1-2, Mt 16:21-27

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click at the bottom of the page. The following text guided this homily:

RENEWING OUR MINDS, OFFERING OUR BODIES

  • A few weeks ago, we encountered Elijah praying on Mount Horeb seeking to hear what God was saying to him. He discovered that God was not in the strong driving wind that was so powerful it split mountains and broke rocks. Nor was God in an earthquake. Nor was he in a fire. Rather he began to speak in a tiny whisper in the midst of silence.
  • This afternoon it’s tempting to be distracted by the strong driving winds of Hurricane Irene or even by the memory that the east coast earlier this week experienced an earthquake. I’d encourage you to put these natural fireworks out of your mind for the course of this Mass so that you can hear what the Lord wishes to whisper to you in this Mass.
  • There’s an amazing scene in today’s Gospel:
  • Last week, Simon son of Jonah, responding to what God the Father revealed to him, confessed Jesus to be the Messiah and Son of the Living God and Jesus responded by changing his name to “Rock,” giving him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and promising to build his Church on Peter.
  • Today, the same Jesus calls the same Simon Peter “Satan” and says that rather than serving as a foundational rock on whom to build he has become a stumbling block, an obstacle, literally a scandal, to Christ’s own plans.
  • Why? Jesus had revealed that he would undergo much suffering at the hands of the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed and on the third day be raised. Peter didn’t want to hear of it. “God forbid it, Lord!,” he exclaimed. “This must never happen to you!”
  • That’s when Jesus told him to get behind him — because he was out in front trying to lead the Lord rather than to follow him— and that he was thinking “not as God does but as human beings do.”
  • That same theme of thinking as God does or as human beings do comes up in the part of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans we have in our second reading today. He appeals to them “not to conform themselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable and perfect.”
  • It leads to one of the perennially important spiritual issues. Do we conform ourselves, our thought patterns, our ways of life, to the ways of the world, of our age? Do we think as all other human beings do? Or do we seek to think as God does, to discern what his will is, and to allow him to renew our minds with his holy wisdom?
  • One of the clearest tests of whether we’re thinking as God does or as human beings do, whether we’re conformed to this age or conformed to Christ, is with respect to the Cross.
  • 2000 years after Jesus’ crucifixion, we are not shocked as St. Peter was when Jesus gave the first of three prophecies of what would happen to him on Good Friday.
  • But most of us are still shocked when Jesus says to us that we must follow him on that path, to deny ourselves, pick up our Cross and follow him on the Way of the Cross to death. We’re even more shocked when Jesus asks those we care about to follow him along a path of suffering.
  • The world doesn’t understand suffering. It thinks it’s simply an evil to be eliminated in the pursuit to maximize pleasure and minimize pain. But a Christian looks at suffering not simply as pain but as pain that can redeem us and others. Just as by Christ’s stripes we were healed, so by our own stripes, our own crosses, we can make up what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings for the sake of his body the Church.
  • So some of the greatest litmus tests for us as to whether we’re thinking as God does or as human beings do, whether we’re conforming ourselves to God or to this age are:
  • Do I believe in self-affirmation or self-denial?
  • Do I try to embrace the Cross or seek to eliminate it from my life?
  • Do I try to follow Christ along the path of the Cross or do I seek to lead Christ, by following only those teachings that I don’t find particularly burdensome?
  • Would I opt to gain the whole world and lose my soul in the process or would I lose the whole world and save my soul in the process?
  • One of the reasons why many of us find it hard to follow Christ is we think this way of the Cross is a way of abnegation and pain, of giving up good things, of losing out on good experiences. But it’s not fundamentally a way of abnegation and pain but a way of love. Out of a yes to God flow various no’s. We give up a lot in order to gain the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in a field, in short, God.
  • St. Paul focuses on this at the beginning of the passage from his letter to the Romans today, when he says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” This was coming out of the previous chapters where he was telling us that we didn’t need to sacrifice animals in temple worship as the Jews did, because in Christ, by God’s mercy, we have been made capable of presenting our bodies, our lives, as a holy and acceptable sacrifice to God. That’s our logike latreia, the only worship that makes sense. And this is a holocaust of love, united with Christ’s holy and acceptable sacrifice of his body and blood to God for us and to us. Our whole life is meant to be this gift of ourselves to God and to others with Christ. Our self-denial makes this self-gift possible. The Cross makes this charity possible. Following Christ means following him down this path of logike latreia. This is the way, par excellence, in which we distinguish ourselves from the ways of the world and conform ourselves to Christ and to his way.
  • This is the truth that, as Jeremiah alluded to in the first reading, should be in us like a burning fire shut up in our bones that we cannot hold in. It’s here at Mass that we join ourselves to Christ’s self-gift, that we conform ourselves and our minds to the words he preaches to us, and our flesh to his own, as we deny ourselves, affirm him, unite ourselves to him on the Cross and follow him down that path of self-giving love all the way home to heaven, where we pray the Son of Man with his angels in the glory of the Father will meet us and give us himself forever.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1JER 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.
All the day I am an object of laughter;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I must cry out,
violence and outrage is my message;
the word of the LORD has brought me
derision and reproach all the day.

I say to myself, I will not mention him,
I will speak in his name no more.
But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,
imprisoned in my bones;
I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial PsalmPS 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
You are my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Reading 2ROM 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.

AlleluiaMT 11:29AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples
that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly
from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
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?
Or what can one give in exchange for his life?
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”