Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’

OPENING PRAYER

Carry Your Cross

Take up your cross, the Savior said,

If you would my disciple be;

Deny yourself, the world forsake,

And humbly follow after me.

Take up your cross, let not its weight

Fill your weak spirit with alarm;

His strength shall bear your heart

And nerve your arm.

Take up your cross then in his strength,

And ev’ry danger calmly brave,

To guide you to a better home,

And vict’ry over death and grave.

Take up your cross and follow Christ,

Nor think till death to lay it down;

For only he who bears the cross

May hope to wear the glorious crown.

To you, great Lord, the One in three,

All praise for evermore ascend;

O grant us here below to see

The heav’nly life that knows no end.

~~by Charles William Everest

COLLECT

God of might, giver of every good gift,

put into our hearts the love of your name,

so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,

you may nurture in us what is good

and, by your watchful care,

keep safe what you have nurtured.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Jer 20:7-9


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.

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.

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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 2584 In their “one to one” encounters with God, the prophets draw light and strength for their mission. Their prayer is not flight from this unfaithful world, but rather attentiveness to The Word of God. At times their prayer is an argument or a complaint, but it is always an intercession that awaits and prepares for the intervention of the Savior God, the Lord of history.1

1 Cf. Am 7:2, 5; Isa 6:5, 8, 11; Jer 1:6; 15: 15-18; 20: 7-18.

APPLICATION

Among all the prophets of the Old Testament Jeremiah is the one who most closely resembled Christ in his sufferings. Other prophets were martyred by their own people, but the whole public life of Jeremiah was one long drawn-out martyrdom. He loved his country and his countrymen, but he had to forewarn them of the fate which would follow from their worldliness and their worldly politics. For this they hated and derided him, and, refusing to listen to God’s warning, which he spoke to them, they went headlong toward the destruction of Jeremiah, of Jerusalem with God’s temple, and the slavery of exile.

Christ too loved his country and his fellow-Jews. The aim of his mission was to bring them into the new kingdom of God on earth from which they would pass in due course, to God’s eternal kingdom.  However, they were more interested in worldliness and worldly politics than in their eternal happiness. They refused to see in him the Messiah whom God had promised to their forefathers. They rejected his message as not being from God. They mocked and insulted him during his mission among them, and they ended up by having the pagan Romans nail him to the cross. Christ loved his fellow-Jews notwithstanding their insults and their rejection of him. Sitting on Mount Olivet one day shortly before his crucifixion, “he shed tears over the city and said: If you had only understood . . . the message of peace! but alas it is hidden from your eyes . . . your enemies will not leave one stone standing on another within you, because you did not recognize your opportunity when God offered it (Lk. 19: 41-44). And again: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those that are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children (your inhabitants) as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you refused” (Lk. 13: 34).

Jeremiah’s sufferings, endured because he was God’s chosen prophet, should encourage us to bear whatever sufferings the practice of our Christian religion may bring on us. To those around us who ignore God, we too are prophets of God, if we put our Christian faith into daily practice. Christian living is a clear message from God, to those whose lives are totally engrossed in this world. In our daily lives we are God’s mouth-pieces, preaching the true purpose of life by our actions. We may be mocked and derided for this, but it must not prevent us from carrying out our Christian duty–the giving of good example to our neighbor, whether he accepts it or not.

Like Jeremiah and like our Savior Christ, we must continue to love our neighbors even if they revile and mock us because of our fidelity to God. They especially need our love and our prayers. They are putting their eternal welfare in jeopardy. Our good example, together with our prayers, may be the means God has ordained to bring them to heaven. Let us not be found wanting in this mission, given by God to each one of us. If we are loyal to our faith, during our short spell on earth, we shall merit eternal happiness for ourselves and those who were influenced by our exemplary lives.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;

for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts

like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary

to see your power and your glory,

For your kindness is a greater good than life;

my lips shall glorify you.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus will I bless you while I live;

lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.

As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,

and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

You are my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.

My soul clings fast to you;

your right hand upholds me.

My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

READING II

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Rom 12: 1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God,

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.

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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1105 The Epiclesis (“invocation upon”) is the intercession in which the priest begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, so that the offerings may become the body and blood of Christ and that the faithful by receiving them, may themselves become a living offering to God.1

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.2

CCC 2031 The moral life is spiritual worship. We “present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,”3 within the Body of Christ that we form and in communion with the offering of his Eucharist. In the liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments, prayer and teaching are conjoined with the grace of Christ to enlighten and nourish Christian activity. As does the whole of the Christian life, the moral life finds its source and summit in the Eucharistic sacrifice.

CCC 2520 Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail
– by the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;
– by purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything;4
– by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments: “Appearance arouses yearning in fools”;5
– by prayer: I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know. .. that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.6

CCC 2826 By prayer we can discern “what is the will of God” and obtain the endurance to do it.7 Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing “the will of my Father in heaven.”8

1 Cf. Rom 12:1.
2 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.
3 Rom 12:1.
4 Cf. Rom 12:2; Col 1:105 Wis 15:5. 6 St. Augustine, Conf. 6, 11, 20: PL 32, 729-730.
7 Rom 12:2; Cf. Eph 5:17; Cf. Heb 10:36.
8 Mt 7:21.

APPLICATION

These words were written over nineteen hundred years ago, but they are as obligatory for us and as instructive for us today as they were for the Roman converts of the year 58 A.D. We have the very same Christian life to live as they had. We have the self-same road to travel to heaven and the same marvelous mercies of God to be grateful for. Therefore, we have the same obligation of showing our gratitude to the good God who called us to be followers and co-heirs of his divine Son.

St. Paul tells us how we are to show that gratitude to God. He tells us we must live our lives as true Christians, that is, our daily lives must conform to the will of God. The prime motive in all our actions must ever be the honor and glory of God. When we do this our lives are living sacrifices, we are offering ourselves daily to God. Because God accepts our offering this makes our Christian lives good and acceptable and perfect in his sight.

Is not this too high a standard to set for a weak mortal? How can a man be always thinking of God when he has so many earthly cares and worries which demand his attention? The answer is, of course, that it is exactly by attending to our earthly worries and problems, and by carrying out our duties faithfully, that we honor God. He does not ask us or want us to be always on our knees saying “Lord, Lord.” He wants us to work honestly and faithfully and from the right motive..

While we must not imitate the foolish ones who try to make their heaven in this world neither must we despise this world. It is God who gave it with all its products so that we could use it as the testing ground in which we are to earn our eternal happiness. God does not forbid us to possess and to use the goods of this world: it is precisely for our use that he put them there. It is the abuse, not the lawful use, of this world’s goods that is wrong; it is not the possession of earthly goods, but the folly of allowing earthly goods to possess us, that is forbidden.

It is God’s will for all Christians that they should always remember to be dedicated to his service by their baptism. They are destined for heaven, and they will reach their destination, by justly and honestly using the things of this life, as means to that end and not as ends in themselves.

GOSPEL

 

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Mt 16: 21-27

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. 
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” 
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.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me. 
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
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? 
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/090317.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 226 It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:
My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.1

CCC 363 In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person.2 But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him,3 that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

CCC 540 Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him.4 This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.”5 By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

CCC 554 From the day Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Master “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. .. and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”6 Peter scorns this prediction, nor do the others understand it any better than he.7 In this context the mysterious episode of Jesus’ Transfiguration takes place on a high mountain,8 before three witnesses chosen by himself: Peter, James and John. Jesus’ face and clothes become dazzling with light, and Moses and Elijah appear, speaking “of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem”.9 A cloud covers him and a voice from heaven says: “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”10

CCC 607 The desire to embrace his Father’s plan of redeeming love inspired Jesus’ whole life,11 for his redemptive passion was the very reason for his Incarnation. And so he asked, “And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.”12 And again, “Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?”13 From the cross, just before “It is finished”, he said, “I thirst.”14

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.15 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.16 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,17 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”18 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.19 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.20 Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.21

CCC 736 By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit:. .. love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”22 “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.”23
Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.24

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.25 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.26

CCC 2232 Family ties are important but not absolute. Just as the child grows to maturity and human and spiritual autonomy, so his unique vocation which comes from God asserts itself more clearly and forcefully. Parents should respect this call and encourage their children to follow it. They must be convinced that the first vocation of the Christian is to follow Jesus: “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”27

1 St. Nicholas of Flue; cf. Mt 5:29-30; 16:24-26.
2 Cf. Mt 16:25-26; Jn 15:13; Acts 2:41.
3 Cf. Mt 10:28; 26:38; Jn 12:27; 2 Macc 6 30.
4 Cf Mt 16:2 1-23.
5 Heb 4:15.
6 Mt 16:21.
7 Cf. Mt 16:22-23; 17:23; Lk 9:45.
8 Cf. Mt 17:1-8 and parallels; 2 Pt 1:16-18.
9 Lk 9:31.
10 Lk 9:35.
11 Cf Lk 12:50; 22:15; Mt 16:21-23.
12 Jn 12:27.
13 Jn 18:11.
14 Jn 19:30; 19:28.
15 1 Tim 2:5.
16 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.
17 Mt 16:24.
18 I Pt 2:21.
19 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.
20 Cf. Lk 2:35.
21 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).
22 Gal 5:22-23.
23 Gal 5:25; cf. Mt 16:24-26.
24 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 15,36: PG 32,132.
25 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.
26 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.
27 Mt 10:37; cf. 16:25.

APPLICATION

By becoming man… equal to us in all things save sin… the Son of God joined our human nature to the divine and so made all men his brothers and adopted sons of the Father. From all eternity this was God’s plan for mankind. But because sin had entered into the world before the Incarnation took place, the Son of God in his human nature had to suffer the violent death of the cross at the hands of sinners. In this very suffering he became the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world, as the second-Isaiah had foretold in his “suffering servant” prophecies (Is. 53: 1-7; 42: 1-9 etc). His death, because he was God as well as man, was a sacrifice, an atonement, of infinite value, and therefore obtained forgiveness from the Father for all the sins of the human race.

In foretelling his sufferings and death, which took place some months later, Christ intended to prepare his disciples and other followers for what he knew would be for them a severe crisis of faith. He also took occasion from it to remind his disciples, and all others who would follow him, of what their attitude to suffering and death should be. He told them, and us too, that we must be ever ready to accept sufferings in this life, and even an untimely death if that should be demanded of us, rather than deny our Christian faith.

To prove their loyalty to their faith in Christ thousands of Christians in the early Church, and thousands more during persecutions in later centuries, gladly took him at his word and went joyfully to their martyrdom. It is to be hoped that, aided by God’s grace, we would all be ready to imitate their example, if called on to prove our fidelity to Christ and our Christian faith. But at the moment what Christ expects and asks of us is that we should bear the sufferings and hardships of daily life cheerfully and gladly for his sake.

This daily carrying of our Christian cross can be, and is for many, a prolonged martyrdom. Poverty, ill-health, cruelty and hardheartedness met with in the home and in one’s neighbors, are heavy crosses which only a truly Christian shoulder can bear. But, if we were offered health, happiness, peace, wealth and power for the next fifty or seventy years on this earth, in exchange for an eternal heaven after death, what rational one among us would accept that offer?

Christians know that this life is a period of training, which makes us ready hereafter to receive the eternal reward which Christ has won for us. Every trainee knows that one must endure certain hardships and sufferings in order to merit graduation into one’s chosen profession or trade. On our Christian graduation day we shall, please God, hear the welcome words: “Well done good and faithful servant; because you have been faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater, come and join in your Master’s happiness” (Mt. 25:21). May God grant that every one of us will hear these words of welcome.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Following, Believing Loving

“To follow’ means to entrust oneself to the Word of God, to rate it higher than the laws of money and bread and to live by it. In short, to follow means to believe, but to “believe’ in the sense of making a radical decision between the two and, in the last analysis, the only two possibilities for human life: bread and the word. The human person does not live on bread alone but also and primarily on the word, the spirit, meaning. It is always this same radical decision that confronts disciples when they hear the call “Follow me!”; the radical decision to stake one’s life either on profit and gain or on truth and love; the radical decision to live for oneself or to surrender one’s self… Only in losing themselves can human beings find themselves. The real and radical martyrdom of genuine self-renunciation is and remains the basic condition for following Christ… To follow Christ means to accept the inner essence of the cross, namely the radical love expressed therein, and thus to imitate God himself. For on the cross God who surrenders his glory in order to be present for us; who desires to rule the world not by power but by love, and in the weakness of the cross reveals his power which operates so differently from the power of this world’s mighty rulers. To follow Christ, then, means to enter into the self-surrender that is the real heart of love. To follow Christ means to become one who loves as God has loved… In the last analysis, to follow Christ is simply for man to become human by integration into the humanity of God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of Resignation in Suffering

Merciful Lord of life, I lift up my heart to You in my suffering, and ask for your comforting help. I know that You would withhold the thorns of this life, if I could attain eternal life without them. So, I throw myself on your mercy, resigning myself to this suffering. Grant me the grace to bear it and to offer it in union with your sufferings. No matter what suffering may come my way, let me always trust in You. Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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