First Reading: From the Book of Jeremiah 20:7-9
7 You have seduced me, Yahweh, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a laughing-stock all day long, they all make fun of me.
8 For whenever I speak, I have to howl and proclaim, ‘Violence and ruin!’ For me, Yahweh’s word has been the cause of insult and derision all day long.
9 I would say to myself, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more,’ but then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not do it.
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
2 Thus I have gazed on you in the sanctuary, seeing your power and your glory.
3 Better your faithful love than life itself; my lips will praise you.
4 Thus I will bless you all my life, in your name lift up my hands.
5 All my longings fulfilled as with fat and rich foods, a song of joy on my lips and praise in my mouth.
6 On my bed when I think of you, I muse on you in the watches of the night,
8 my heart clings to you, your right hand supports me.
9 May those who are hounding me to death go down to the depths of the earth,
Second Reading: From the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 12:1-2
1 I urge you, then, brothers, remembering the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated and acceptable to God; that is the kind of worship for you, as sensible people.
2 Do not model your behavior on the contemporary world, but let the renewing of your minds transform you, so that you may discern for yourselves what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and mature.
Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of St. Matthew 16:21-27
21 From then onwards 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 and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.
22 Then, taking him aside, Peter started to rebuke him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord,’ he said, ‘this must not happen to you.’
23 But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do.’
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.
25 Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.
26 What, then, will anyone gain by winning the whole world and forfeiting his life? Or what can anyone offer in exchange for his life?
27 ‘For the Son of man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will reward each one according to his behaviour.
Theme: Take up Your Cross Daily and Follow Jesus Christ
What is the way to glory and victory in the kingdom of God? Jesus told his disciples that he must first suffer rejection, be crucified, and then rise again on the third day. In so many words he explained that there could be no victory and no glory without the cross. Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death on the cross caused his disciples great dismay and disbelief. Peter, who was often the first to react to whatever Jesus had to say, wanted to protect Jesus from any threat or harm. That is why he rebuked the very thought of Jesus having to face rejection, condemnation, and crucifixion.
“My way or God’s way”
Why did Jesus use the word “Satan” when he addressed Peter? When Jesus went out into the wilderness to prepare for his public ministry, Satan came to tempt him to follow a different path than the one chosen by the Father in heaven. Now Jesus recognizes in Peter’s response another temptation to seek a different and less costly path for accomplishing his mission than the way of the cross. The word “Satan” literally means “adversary” – one who stands in opposition. Jesus reminds Peter that his role is not to be an adversary but a disciple – one who gets behind his Master to follow with trust and obedience.
Victory and glory through the cross
Jesus knew that the cross was the only way he could ransom us from slavery to sin with the price of his blood which was shed for our freedom. Through his sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus defeated Satan who held us in bondage to sin and condemnation. And Jesus defeated the power of death and overcame the grave through his resurrection. Through his obedience to his heavenly Father’s will, Jesus reversed the curse of Adam’s disobedience. His death on the cross won pardon for the guilty, freedom for the oppressed, healing for the afflicted, and new life for those condemned to death. His death makes possible our freedom to live as the adopted sons and daughters of the merciful Father in heaven.
The paradox of God’s economy
Jesus told his disciples that they, too, must be willing to lay down their lives in order to gain new everlasting life with the Father in his kingdom. There’s a certain paradox in God’s economy. We lose what we gain, and we gain what we lose. When we try to run our life our own way, we end up losing it to futility. Only God can free us from our ignorant and sinful ways. When we surrender our lives to God, he gives us new life in his Spirit and the pledge of eternal life. God wants us to be spiritually fit and ready to do his will at all times. When the human body is very weak or ill, we make every effort to nurse it back to health. How much more effort and attention should we give to the spiritual health of our hearts and minds!
The great exchange
What will you give to God in exchange for freedom and eternal life? Are you ready to part with anything that might keep you from following the Lord Jesus and his perfect plan for your life? Jesus poses these questions to challenge our assumptions about what is most profitable and worthwhile in life. In every decision of life we are making ourselves a certain kind of person. It is possible that some can gain all the things they have set their heart on, only to wake up suddenly and discover that they missed the most important thing of all. Of what value are material things if they don’t help you gain what truly lasts for eternity. Neither money nor possessions can buy heaven, mend a broken heart, or cheer a lonely person.
Losing all to gain all with Jesus Christ
A true disciple gladly gives up all that he or she has in exchange for an unending life of joy and happiness with God. God gives without measure. The joy he offers no sadness or loss can diminish. The cross of Jesus Christ leads to victory and freedom from sin and death. What is the cross which Jesus Christ commands me to take up each day? When my will crosses with his will, then his will must be done. Are you ready to lose all for Jesus Christ in order to gain all with Jesus Christ?
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will, all that I have and possess. You have given them to me; to you, O Lord, I restore them; all things are yours, dispose of them according to your will. Give me your love and your grace, for this is enough for me.” (Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)