22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time A
August 28, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: In today’s readings we hear of two men, Jeremiah and
Peter who are struggling with difficult parts of being a follower of God..
The Gospel reading is a contrasting balance with the Peter
of last Sunday’s Gospel who professes Jesus as: You are the Christ the
Son of the living God. Jesus then designated Peter as the Rock on
whom he would build his church.
In Today’s Gospel we heard the first of three predictions of the
Passion that are found in Matthew’s Gospel. The idea that Jesus must go
up to Jerusalem to suffer much and be condemned to death was difficult
for them to accept. After each prediction there is a
response of Jesus’ followers, and a teaching of Jesus.
After the first prediction of the Passion, Peter as the
spokesperson gives words to their dissatisfaction with this idea.
“God forbid, Lord ! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”
To the second prediction the apostles will respond by asking the
question “who is the most important in the kingdom of heaven?”
After the third prediction the mother of James and John will come
asking that her sons be given the places of honor at the right and left
of Jesus when he comes into his kingdom.
The apostles idea of the Messiah did not include suffering and
death. They were happy to be commissioned to be followers of Jesus when
he shared with them his power to expel demons and to cure every kind of
infirmity and sickness. Now Jesus introduces the idea that he must
suffer much and be condemned to death. Peter objects to this future for
But Jesus reacts to Peter very strongly. “Get behind me Satan!
You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does
but as human beings do.” (Interesting enough if Peter stays behind
Jesus he will still be a follower.) From this point on in Matthew’s Gospel
the number of miracles decrease and the teaching of Jesus increases.
But these words of Jesus are followed by an even greater challenge
to Peter and to us. If we wish to follow Jesus we must be ready to
meet the same fate he is going to meet. Following Jesus has its cost:
one must go up to Jerusalem.
v. 24 “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his
cross, and follow me.” As goes the master, so goes the disciple.
v. 25 Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
his life for my sake will find it. If we deny Jesus, selfishly seek
self fulfillment we will be condemned, no freedom, no happiness.
If we do surrender to God we will know everlasting life, freedom, happiness.
v. 26 all human conceptions of loss and gain have been turned
v. 27 fidelity has its reward: The Son of Man… will repay,
reward, each one according to his conduct.
Jesus prediction for himself included to suffer much, be condemned to
death but it also included rising on the third day. So Jesus
prediction for his followers is also deny self, carry the cross, lose
life but also with the promise to receive recompense according to one’s
After the first prediction of the passion we have Jesus teaching us what
we must do to be his followers: deny self, carry your cross and lose your
After the second prediction of the passion we have Jesus teaching us
what we must do to be his followers: Mt. 18:3 if we don’t change and come
like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of God.
After the third prediction of the passion we have Jesus teaching us what
we must do to be his followers: Mt. 20: 26,27 “You know that the rulers
of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority
over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever
wishes to be great among you, shall be your servant. …the Son of Man did
not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Carry our cross, become like little children and serve. How close am I to that model of discipleship?
Jeremiah felt duped by God. He was an object of laughter and everyone mocked him.
“The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.”
We can identify with Jeremiah’s feelings, “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.”
Yet somehow he manages: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion;
my persecutors will stumble they will not triumph.” “O Lord of hosts, you who test the just.
who probe mind and heart, Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.”
We too at times wish vengeance. Deception, sorrow and terror have brought
the prophet close to the point of despair. He makes it through.
Jeremiah clearly wrestles with God. Have I at times wrestled with God? Have I felt a “fire burning in my heart?”
What do I feel is imprisoned in my bones? Has vengeance or forgiveness been more a part of my life?