This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time. In the first reading Jeremiah complains to God about his ministry and the way that he is treated because of it. Jeremiah wants to quit being a prophet but God’s word within him will not allow him to be silent. In the second reading, Paul urges his readers to offer themselves up completely to God. Thus one’s whole life when lived in obedience to God will be a continuous act of worship . In the Gospel, Jesus predicts His passion and death. Peter, only a few verses after having declared that Jesus is the Messiah, demonstrates that he doesn’t quite understand what it really means. He, along with the rest of Israel, expects a Messiah of glory and triumph but Jesus insists on being the Messiah of God’s plan rather than the Messiah of the world’s expectations. All together the readings call us to consider the extent of our own faithfulness to God’s word and God’s plan. Like Jeremiah, do I sometimes feel that I am in over my head and want to quit? What prevents me from doing so? Have I really given myself completely to God? What portions of my life have kept it from being a continuous act of worship? How selfless have I been as a disciple? Have I really placed Jesus first as the gospel urges?
First Reading: Jeremiah 20: 7-9
7 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.
8 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.
9 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.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 20:7-18 this section is structured in three parts:
Individual lament in verses 7-10,
prayer of confidence in verses 11-13,
self-curse in verses 14-18.
* 20:7 Jeremiah uses a very daring and somewhat startling (at least to 20th century eyes) set of images. Because of Jeremiah’s intimate dealings and relationship with God, he uses an image of seduction and deception. The language he uses is the language used in speaking of a virgin’s seduction by a man (Exod 22:15). Often the same words mean simply to deceive and are used of false prophets being duped by Yahweh (1 Kgs 22:19-23; Ezek 14:9). In Jer 15:18 the prophet presents a similar image of deception, calling God a treacherous brook that dries up when its waters are needed. He is complaining that he cannot rely on God with absolute assurance of His assistance. Jeremiah is expressing the feelings of many who fail to see God’s hand in the events around them.
* 20:9 This verse is important in developing an understanding of the prophet’s office and inspiration. The message of God can not be ignored but must be expressed. Although others had described Yahweh as a “consuming fire” (Exod 24:17; Deut 4:24, 9:3; Isa 33:14; Jeremiah is the only one to apply that image directly to God’s Word (See Jer 5:14; 23:29).
Second Reading: Romans 12: 1-2
1 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
2 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.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 12:1-13:14 This lengthy section explains how Christians can function with the gift of justification through faith, in their relation to one another and the state. This radical restatement of principles for life is needed because Christ marks the termination of the Mosaic law as the primary source of guidance for God’s people (Romans 10:4).
* 12:1-8 In these verses Paul describes how Christians are to live without the Mosaic code with its elaborate directions on sacrifices and other cultic observances. Christians are to exercise good judgment as they confront the many decisions required in daily life instead of being limited by specific legal maxims. The gospel invites believers to present their bodies (whole selves) as a living sacrifice which is to include every aspect of life not merely the ritual and liturgical moments of life. In this way all of life becomes a continuous act of worship. God distributes a variety of gifts to the community of believers to assist each member in being true to this calling. Each of the gifts has the function of building up the community and strengthening the believers.
* 12:2 In Paul’s view, “this world” is passing and imperfect (1 Cor 7:31). The Jewish scholars distinguished between “this world/age” and the “world/age to come.” Paul alludes to that distinction here. Paul himself sees those who embrace Christ have already having entered the “world or age to come.” The ages met at the beginning of the Christian era (1Cor 19:11). Thus the Christian is living in this world but must live for God and not conform to this world. The transformation is inward and involves the renewal of the human “nous” (mind) by God’s indwelling Spirit.
Gospel Reading: Matthew 16: 21-27
21 From that time on, 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. 22 Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 23 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.”
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 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? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.”
NOTES on Gospel:
* 16:21-23 This is the first prediction of the passion in Matthew’s Gospel and follows its Marcan parallel (Mark 8:31-33) fairly closely but it also serves as a corrective to the view of Jesus’ messiahship as solely one of glory and triumph. Matthew adds “from that time on” in verse 21 to emphasize that Jesus’ revelation of his approaching suffering and death marks a new phase of the gospel. The other two predictions in Matthew are found in Matthew 17:22-23; 20:17-19.
* 16:21 Use of the word, “must,” indicates a necessity that is part of the tradition of all the synoptic gospels (See also Mark 8:31 and Luke 9:21). The elders, the chief priests, and the scribes constitute the three divisions of the Sanhedrin. “On the third day” is used here and in Luke 9:22, while Mark reads “after three days” (Mark 8:31). Matthew’s language is, in the Greek, almost identical with the pre-Pauline fragment of the kerygma found in 1 Cor 15:4. Hosea 6:2 is usually held to be the Old Testament background to the confession that Jesus was raised on the third day. Josephus (a first century Jewish historian) uses “after three days” and “on the third day” interchangeably (Antiquities 7, 11, 6 280-81; 8, 8, 1-2 214, 218) adding evidence to the position that there probably was no intended difference in meaning between the two phrases.
* 16:22-23 Peter, desiring a messiahship of triumph and glory, refuses to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death and is perceived by Jesus as a tool of a satanic attempt to deflect Him from his God-appointed course. Peter is addressed in terms that recall Jesus’ dismissal of the devil in the temptation account (4:10: “Get away, Satan!”). The satanic purpose is emphasized by Matthew’s somewhat ironic ( in light of 16:18) addition to the Marcan account of the words, “You are an obstacle to me” which is literally a “stumbling stone.”
* 16:24-28 The early church, much like today, was plagued by would-be disciples who sat on the fence not wanting to make a firm decision for or against Jesus. Here, a readiness to follow Jesus even to the point of giving up one’s life for Him is presented as the condition for true discipleship. This extreme demand emphasizes both the seriousness of the decision and the value of the Kingdom. Such absolute devotion will be repaid by Jesus at the final judgment.
To deny someone is to disown him (Matthew 10:33; 26:34-35) and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the center of one’s existence. Matthew has Jesus telling His disciples that the world of a Christian must be centered not on the self but on Christ and His kingdom. In many ways these sayings are a commentary on the great command to love God “with all one’s heart, soul and strength (Deut 6:5). Willingness to follow Jesus is substituted for love of God implying that the two are somehow the same. Indeed the Christian will see following Jesus as the way of expressing love of God.
* 16:25 In 10:39 Matthew already said that any loss, even death, is preferable to the loss of the Kingdom of God. Here Jesus tells us again that a life centered on self is a life doomed to failure. One who denies Jesus in order to save one’s earthly life will be condemned to everlasting destruction but loss of earthly life for Jesus’ sake will be rewarded by everlasting life in the kingdom. The life of a disciple must be focused on Jesus and the values that are important to Him.
* 16: 26 Gaining all the wealth and power of the world is ultimately of no use. All the wealth of the world is of no use to the dead and so no earthly prize can be of any value when compared to the eternal joys of the Kingdom. Seeking happiness directly is always a doomed venture. One must seek the will of God instead, and then happiness will follow.
* 16:27 This is a statement of individual retribution and also an allusion to Psalm 28:4, 62:12, 37:1; Prov 24:12; Eze 14:12-16; Rev 2:23.
* 16:27-28 The parousia and final judgment are presented by Matthew�s Gospel in 25:31 using terms almost identical with these.