Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time,
“Losing One’s Life for Eternal Happiness in Heaven.”
“For he would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mt. 16:25
Today’s readings remind us of the need that we all have to sacrifice ourselves in this life in order to be worthy for eternal life. In the gospel, Jesus tells us that He must sacrifice Himself for us and that all His disciples must also sacrifice themselves for Him by carrying their cross in this life. To do otherwise is to do the work of Satan. We see this in the first reading where the prophet Jeremiah, even against his own will, has to cry out what God has put into his heart to prophesy. Even though he knows that it will only bring him persecution. St. Paul also repeats the same message; he tells us to offer ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice and not to be conformed to this world. St. Paul is ordained for men, but he is called by God as Aaron was. (cf. Heb. 5:4) In all of today’s readings, the Holy Spirit is giving us through the sacred scriptures the importance of being true to the calling we all have as followers of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah, an enemy of the people
In the First Reading (Jer. 20; 7-9), Jeremiah talks of being deceived by God. Jeremiah would love to be at peace with his brethren, the people of Israel, but he is impelled by a “burning fire” (Jer. 20:9) within his heart to speak out about the terrible abominations of his people. This is why the people hate him and want to kill him. He is an enemy of the people. He upsets them and tells them where they are going wrong with sin which turns their hearts from the true God. He speaks of violence and destruction to warn them that their sins will cause them to be overcome by foreign powers: “I am become a laughingstock all the day. All scoff at me. For I am speaking now this long time crying out against iniquity, and I often proclaim devastation.” Jer. 20:7-8 Jeremiah would rather not have to do this! He wishes that he could be left alone and that is why he says that God has “deceived” (Jer. 20:7) him. He thought that God had called him to prophesy and build up the people, but he only prophesied destruction. He is the “laughing stock” of the people. This has always been the fortune of those who do God’s will; they will be the “laughingstock” of the world which cannot understand God’s ways.
“To Suffer in Jerusalem”
Jesus repeats this message in the gospel (Mt. 16:21-27) today. He must go to Jerusalem and suffer for speaking the truth: “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and Scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and on the third day rise again.” Mt. 16:21 This is why Jesus upbraids Peter for not wanting Him to suffer. “Far be it from thee O Lord: this will never happen to see.” Mt. 16:22 The gentle Jesus replies in strong language: “Get behind me, Satan, thou are a scandal to me; for thou dost not mind the things of God, but those of men.” Mt. 16:23 Jesus knows that He must suffer for mankind. This is the reason why He became man. This is the Father’s will. Jesus is the Son of God and must be concerned with the things of His Father and not of man.
“Carry the Cross”
And what are the things of God for the followers of Jesus. Jesus said to the disciples: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” Mt. 16:24 The followers of Jesus must also suffer like Jesus suffered during His passion and death in Jerusalem. They are not made for this life! Their home is in heaven! If they make the earth their home and worldly pleasure their goal, they are not followers of Christ and men of God. For Christ, they must lose their life: “For he who would save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mt. 16:24 Isn’t this what happened to Jeremiah? He lost his life by prophesying violence and outrage and punishment for sin (cf. Jer. 20:8) Jesus spoke the truth and was crucified. Will it be any different for the followers of Christ?
To Gain Eternal Life
Is it so bad to suffer in this life to gain eternal happiness. Today, many live for this world and its pleasures. Jesus tells us: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world but suffer the loss of his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Mt. 16:26 Eternal life in heaven is the only thing that really matters. This is what the followers of Christ should desire. This is the reason why we have been created.
Living for God and eternity is what St. Paul means in the Second Reading from the Epistle to the Romans (12:1-2), St. Paul says, “Be not conformed to this world…” Rom 12:2 He would want us to present our bodies as a spiritual sacrifice for God: “I exhort you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living, holy pleasing to God—your spiritual service.” Rom. 12:1-2 The followers of Christ must also be a spiritual sacrifice. They must accept all the sufferings and pain of their everyday life as coming from God as their personal cross. They must carry their cross! Their cross will be the daily events of their lives. Whatever God sends them will be for their good: “Now we know that for those how love God all things work together for good…” Rom. 8:28 There is no other way than the royal way of the cross. The followers of Christ must lose their lives in this world in order to gain their lives in the next world: “For he would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Mt. 16:25