Deacon Cornell's Homily


Jeremiah 20:7-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27


August 27-28, 2011 Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Well, Peter didn't get to enjoy his designation as the Rock on which Christ would build church for very long. One minute Jesus is praising Peter for acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah and the next, Jesus is calling him Satan and telling him to get out of his sight.

All of today's readings challenge us to reflect on what it means to say we are Catholics. What would Jesus call us today: Satan or Rock? Peter wasn't evil; that is not what Jesus meant by calling him Satan, which in Hebrew means "the opposer", the one opposed to faith. Peter's opposition is not any of the things we typically consider "sins"; it is his attempt to ignore the fact that doing God's will usually means sacrifice. For Jesus, the sacrifice was suffering and death. For most of us, our sacrifice is much less dramatic but I am not sure it is any less difficult. We face many "Satans" in our lives in this culture: people or things that oppose our faith by promising pleasure or comfort or power or safety if we only have this or do that. These Satans try to dupe us into thinking that we can avoid the sacrifice that comes with loving.

In preparation for the first half of this year's Generation of Faith's focus on the Mass, I am reading a book called Living the Mass. The authors say that the primary reason that a 70-75% of Catholics do not come to Mass regularly is that they no longer see how it relates to their everyday life. I would agree with that. Why are we here today at this Mass? When the presider prays the words of consecration that Jesus used 2,000 years ago, he will say, "Do this in remembrance of me." What is that THIS we are to do in remembrance of Jesus? At the end of mass, the priest or deacon sends us off with the answer to that question. We are to go forth in the peace of Christ, serving God and one another. But what does that really mean to us?

If you ask someone what they do and they tell you they are a doctor, or a plumber, or waiter, you have a pretty good idea what that person does day in and day out. Some occupations are harder to understand: my daughter in law Mariel is a dosimetrist. Unless you know that a dosimetrist is someone who programs the machines that give radiation treatments to cancer patients, you might not be able to figure out what she does all day. But what about someone who says they are a Catholic? Would people know what that person does day in and day out? I would suggest not, at least not in our society. They might think that this means going to mass regularly, or saying prayers on a regular basis, or even obeying the commandments faithfully but that is not what Jesus calls us to. Jesus calls us to be his body which is given up for us, his blood which is poured out for us so that sins may be forgiven. That is what we are sent forth to do in remembrance of Jesus.

To understand the Mass we have to understand baptism because the Eucharist is a strengthening, a completion of our baptismal initiation. In baptism we die to our false selves and rise from the waters to be clothed in Christ. Then we are anointed as priest, prophet and king because to follow Jesus we need to live our lives as he did. By celebrating the Eucharist we are strengthened in those roles. A priest is one who helps us understand who God is and who we are in relation to God. A prophet is one who speaks God's truth, advocating for the weak and the poor, even when it is not what others want to hear. A king is one who cares for those who are in need, especially those who have no one else to help them. This is what Jesus commands us to do in remembrance of him. This is what we are sent forth from each Mass to be in the world.

Jeremiah cries out to God that he was duped by God. God promised Jeremiah that he would have God with him when he proclaimed God's truth even though the king, and the other prophets and the priests and the people of Jerusalem did not want to hear that. Jeremiah was scorned, jailed, thrown in a dry well to die, and finally dragged off in exile to Egypt when Jerusalem was destroyed. Jeremiah duped himself into thinking that if God was with him nothing bad would happen to him. Jesus makes sure his disciples do not dupe themselves the same way. Following Jesus, being the Body of Christ here and now, is what we must do to bring salvation to the world, but that will be a cross, not a cushy desk job. When was the last time any of us felt like we were carrying a cross by living out our baptismal call? Do we examine how our choices in what we eat, what we buy, how we spend our time to see if these are choices of a priest, prophet and king? Do we take the time to prepare ourselves to be better priests, prophets and kings? For example, did we spend 10 or 15 minutes this past week going over the readings for today's mass? With the internet we have no excuse that we don't know what the readings are or how to access them, or even to find commentary on them to help us understand.

Jesus tells us we must take up our cross each day, not as a sign of suffering but rather a sign of trusting in God. It reminds us that God will be with us, even in the worst pain and suffering, not to take away that pain and suffering but to transform it into salvation for the world. As Paul warns us, let us not be duped into thinking like our culture. Instead, let us be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.