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Catholic Diocese of Umuahia


GETTING REAL WITH GOD. A reflection for 22nd Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sun, 30 Aug 2020

Readings: Jer 20:7-9; Rm 12:1-2; Mt 16: 21-27

My friends in Christ.

  I am aware as all of you are, that the cross represents pain and suffering. More than this, we know that no one admires suffering. Is anything sweet about misery – even when such grief is for a “nice” purpose? The yoke of pain is made “easy,” and the burden of suffering made light. But light pain is still pain. Today, in the Gospel, Jesus makes this insistence: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up the cross, and follow me.”  Must is an imperative (Mt 16:24)!

    We are right to call attention to Jeremiah’s resistance to pain. He wishes the pain away, and it is normal to do so in everyday life. The ordinary life of many people is straightforward and less complicated. But the cross arrives to cross and contradict all straightforwardness. There is protest and disenchantment in the prophet’s mind because the doing of God’s will has resulted in the disenchantment. The terms that are descriptive of Jeremiah’s experience are dire: “insult,” “mockery,” “laughing stock,” “violence,” “ruin,” and “everybody’s butt.” Think about the equivalent actions depicted or described in each of these terms. Have you known naked pain?

   However, we reflect on the woes of pain in real-life situations; there is a dimension to pain or the cross, which today’s context of Scripture exposes to us.  It begins with the advantage of knowing God and Jesus, whom God has sent (Jn 17:3). It recalls the conditions for entering or sharing the life of God in Jesus. We see the prototype of such a call and such an experience in the followers of Jesus. And, we also learn directly from the teaching of Jesus or learn from the mistakes of Peter. We, too, should grow in fellowship and take notice of the conditional nature of the invitation to be a Christian. “If you wish to be my follower, then you must deny yourself,” Jesus tells us.

   There is a supernatural life. Many do not know it is called the Christian life. We will have the confusing ideas that Peter experienced if we fail to recognize this fact. It does not truly begin until we make up our minds. Pain will not transform us until we start to respect the decision to rejoin our lives to God’s plan. Then the burdens in crosses begin to assume fresh dimensions even for us today. As Jeremiah confesses and Peter depicts, we all have needed to accept and grow in the supernatural life of faith in God. We grow when we cede to the love of God that “overpowers” us in goodness or “seduces” the human mind and heart in its restlessness and longing for its maker.

  In Nigeria today, suffering and pain as we know them have assumed more terrifying proportions. To meet and face the psychological trauma of endless experiences of banditry in our country requires heroism, which very few can understand. To endure the pain of repeated kidnappings, mass killings of Christians and Muslims, and in most cases, mass killings of Christians with no one held responsible or accountable requires a resilience that no human promises can assuage. God alone can mollify the crosses that some Nigerians face today. But, is this why the Goepel is revealed afresh to us today, even as we listen? Could it be that our worst fears may still be so palpable today, until we open the eyes of our minds, and open them to Christ now? I feel so.

   We might design lifestyles and propose patterns for the “perfect” pleasure in our world. We may desire the expulsion of any cross and all pain from our side. However, the Gospel truth proclaimed now, and today is clear: We do not have such a world. We do not need to live on such a planet either. We have the call of God through Christ to never model ourselves on the behavior of this world, but to the will of God and what God allows (Rm 12: 2). The revelation here is that the genuinely useful life is one with challenges. In asking us to face and stand firm through the crosses that we bear, Jesus asks us to get real with God. See his own hands, his feet, and his pierced side as symbols of what he suffered. He knows that the way is through the discipline of the cross. May we grow to more extraordinary holiness and grace through what we endure and suffer for Christ.



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