Below is my homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. It was given to Ss. Cosmas & Damian Parish in Punxsutawney, PA on Saturday, September 2, 2017, at the 4:30 PM parish mass.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
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.”
The Gospel of the Lord
In 1984, when Poland was still under Communist control, the Prime Minister ordered all crucifixes be removed from classroom walls. Catholic Bishops protested the ban, which had stirred waves of anger and resentment all across Poland. Ultimately the government relented, insisting that the law remain on the books, but agreeing not to press for removal of the crucifixes, particularly in the schoolrooms.
But one zealous Communist school administrator took the crosses down from his seven lecture halls where they had hung since the school’s founding in the twenties. Days later, a group of parents entered the school and hung more crosses.
The administrator promptly had these taken down as well. The next day two-thirds of the school’s six hundred students staged a sit-in. When heavily armed riot police arrived, the students were forced into the streets. Then they marched, crucifixes held high, to a nearby Church where they were joined by twenty-five hundred other students from nearby schools for a morning of prayer in protest against the government decision.
Soldiers surrounded the Church. But the press was there as well, and pictures from inside of students holding crosses high above their heads flashed around the world. So did the words of the priest who delivered the message to the weeping congregation that morning. “There is no Poland without a cross. Perhaps the cross has come to symbolize comfort to us because we have had to sacrifice little in our lives. The more we are called upon to carry our own crosses, the more we will understand the one, our Savior carried outside the city gates to the hill called Golgotha.”
Just last week, Peter publically professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah, the Christ, the one who is to come. Yet, when Christ proclaims that He would be killed, Peter rebukes Jesus, saying “don’t say such things! You can’t die!” Jesus responds with his own rebuke which seems rather harsh: “Get behind me Satan!”
Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle to me!
I pray that we never hear that phrase from Christ!
Yet we can be obstacles to the workings of God in our world.
How often do we ignore what God is calling us to? I see in our youth such great talents and skills, just waiting to be tapped. I see such great wisdom and experience in our adults just waiting to be heard. Yet are we listening? Are we sharing?
Our goal every day should be to follow Jesus Christ, not have him follow us. When we do our will instead of the Will of God, we become an obstacle to God in our world.
We do our will and ignore God’s will when we don’t pick up our crosses and move forward. We do our own will when we say to ourselves “I’m too old for this” or “I’m too young to do this” or “I’m too tired.” The list could go on! Jesus Christ is calling each and every one of us to follow Him. All he asks us to do is to lay down our own wills and follow His will.
The students in Poland in 1984 followed His Will. They saw injustice and they spoke out against it. When we see the injustice in our world, it is our duty to call it out and work toward fixing the issue. When we don’t do this, we become like Peter, we become obstacles for the Will of God in the world.
Let us take an opportunity this week to seek out areas in our life where we can do better to follow the Will of God, so as not to be obstacles, but rather a viaduct of the mercy and love of God. Let us seek out ways of peace to continue to spread the Good News of God, not resorting to violence and name-calling, but rather seeking out God in every person, even our enemies.