22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 31, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Jer 20:7-9, Psalm 63, Rom 12:1-2, Mt 16:21-27
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
As we are all aware, modern technology – media, smartphones, computers, microwaves – is designed to make our lives simpler and to do things quickly. We used to use a pen and paper to send greeting cards on birthdays. Now you can easily send to birthday wishes to Facebook or Instagram. Every time a Facebook friend celebrates a birthday, I get a text message. In my smartphone, all I have to do is text the number “1”. I don’t know where my answer goes, but it goes somewhere! If the person acknowledges my greeting, I know they got it. That’s how instant it is.
The last time I visited home in the Philippines, the post office used to be a very popular place. They closed it because very few people are using snail mail anymore. From fast food to ordering things online – just a click of the button – and whatever you ordered will be there. Even any information you might need – you can Google it, Yahoo it, Bing it – and you get the information you need in just a few seconds. That is why in today’s day & age, the words “patience” and “sacrifice” are a little bit unpopular.
Well, it’s not only today, but even 2000 years ago, this was the case. We notice it in today’s gospel. Even St. Peter didn’t like the word “sacrifice.” When our Lord Jesus told the disciples that he would be crucified but on the third day he would be raised back to life, somehow they missed the last part – that he would be raised back to life. That is why Peter objected, “Lord that should not happen to you!” For the first time, our Lord called Peter by another name. Just a few verses before that, he called him the rock upon which he would build the church. In today’s gospel, he said, “Satan.” What a difference from being a rock to Satan – not because he represents Satan, but because what he was saying is not in accordance with God’s plan. But that’s what human beings do. They don’t like sacrifice.
In Matthew 16, our gospel today, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” That is the cost of discipleship. This is not only in our Christian life, but in the world at large. There is no such thing as something for nothing. It has been said that if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. There is always a price to pay.
The number one golf player in the world is Rory McIlroy. When he was interviewed, he was asked the secret of his success. He said, “I practice playing golf 8 hours a day, at least 6 days a week.” 8 Hours a day. I wouldn’t mind playing golf 8 hours a day, but we’re not talking about playing. We’re talking about practicing on the practice range. That’s not fun. For me, that’s as exciting as cleaning my oven. I’d rather play the real game. But he has done that every single day for many years. He has to sacrifice, but he loves what he is doing. That’s the only way.
Pope Francis said, “Christ’s cross embraced with love never leads to sadness, but to joy.” If we love our cross, if we love our trials – we know this is part of our life – we are in pretty good company. We are in the company of the saints and our Lord Jesus himself. This helps us better understand what Jesus said in the same gospel of Matthew. He said, “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide that leads to destruction and those who enter through it are many, and how narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.”
But we choose life. We choose to follow the Lord.
A story is told about two young men who went out hunting for the first time, and they shot a deer. And they began dragging the deer back to the truck by the tail, and they kept slipping and losing their grip and their balance. A farmer came along and asked, “What are you boys doing?” They replied, “We are dragging the deer back to the truck. “ The farmer told them, “You’re not supposed to drag the deer by the tail. You’re supposed to drag a deer by the handles that God has provided, and they are called antlers. You are supposed to drag the deer by the antlers.” The young men said, “Thank you for the idea,” and they began pulling the deer by the antlers. After about 5 minutes, one guy said, “That farmer was right. It goes a lot easier by the antlers.” His friend replied, “Yeah, but we are getting father and farther from the truck.”
My dear brothers and sisters, as we all know, most people would like to pull the easy way. Without realizing it, they are getting farther and farther from the truck of their real goals in life, and that is to experience happiness in the complete sense of the word. During the offertory, we will sing the song, “The Summons” where our Lord invites us: “Will you come and follow me? Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?”
Following the Lord Jesus is not easy, but it is surely the only way that leads to life, peace and joy that will last forever.