Homily – 30th August, 2020

Jesus on Cross

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

If anyone wants to be a follower of mine,
let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me

Although the season of Lent and Easter ended a few months ago, today’s Gospel reminds us of this liturgical season once again because it tells us about the cross and the suffering of Jesus. In the first part of this passage, we heard about Jesus who was trying to explain to his apostles all that had to happen. He began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. “Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death…”

Like a week ago, the main character of today’s gospel is Peter, one of the closest apostles of Jesus. As we heard on last Sunday, Jesus entrusted him with the very responsible mission of being the rock on which he himself wishes to build the Church. “You are Peter and, on this rock, I will build my Church”.

In today’s gospel, Peter heard completely different words from Jesus, and I think we can easily imagine his frustration, disappointment, and shame. Who among us would like to hear from our friends, master or teacher: “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle in my path”. I am convinced that Jesus, while saying these harsh words to Peter, still loved and respected him very much, but at the same time wanted to shake him to change his way of thinking about Jesus and his mission.

Today Jesus gives Peter a very difficult, but also the most important lesson that Peter remembered for the rest of his life. And this is exactly the same message that Jesus wants to give to each of us – There is no redemption and salvation without his suffering and passion on the Cross. None of us can understand Christianity; none of us can understand Jesus, his mission, and the main message of the Gospel, unless we first understand the meaning of suffering and the Cross.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to see how heavy the crosses we use in our church are. After the renovation and painting of our church was finished, I thought for a while what we can do with this metal cross, which I finally decided to put on the tabernacle. I wondered for a long time where would be the most appropriate place for this cross to be in the central and very visible place of the sanctuary. When I tried to lift it and move it for the first time, I quickly realized that I would have to put much more energy into this effort than I expected. Finally, I decided to do this job… but a bit later… after lunch.

Like that metal cross that I placed on the tabernacle, our daily invisible crosses can be even heavier and uncomfortable. Each of us has our own cross that we have received from God. Each of them is different, each has different dimensions and weight. Sometimes it is a Cross of disease and weakness, sometimes it is a Cross of difficult relationships in a marriage or family. Sometimes it is a Cross of division, conflict and violence in so many places where we live every day. Sometimes it is the Cross of addiction, poverty, problems at work, school or the Cross of loneliness. Today so many people experience also the Cross of war and anxiety, especially in Belarus and other countries of the world.

Let us reflect for a moment and ask: What is the cross of my life? What am I afraid of and what would I like to avoid? When I read this gospel a few days ago, I thought that we need this lesson of Jesus today as never before, because He wants to tell us that every cross, every suffering and hardship experienced with Him and for Him has really great meaning and value.

Also, our suffering and fear for our future due to the pandemic have a deep meaning that we probably do not understand today. But if we only open our eyes wider, we will see – exactly as Peter saw and realised – that nothing is impossible for God and that it is much easier to carry our daily crosses when we follow our Master.

Encouraged by today’s gospel, let us take our daily crosses and follow Jesus, trusting that in each of our difficult and painful experiences and hardships, there is always a deep meaning and value. Amen.

Fr Gregory