Sunday, September 3, 2023
Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Gospel 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."
To Lose is To Win!
Upon Reflection: Most surveys and ratings all conclude that the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys are the most popular professional sports teams in the U.S. Those who follow pro baseball and pro football also know this to be true just through observing how often those teams are nationally televised and how often they are talked about on ESPN. But have you ever wondered why? Why are these two particular teams (on a national level) so much more popular than other teams? I think the answer is the same reason why Peter in today’s Gospel refused to accept that Jesus would suffer and die in Jerusalem. It is a very common temptation to gravitate toward winners, toward those who always come out on top, toward the ones who are considered to be “the best.” We all want to be a part of the glory of winning. Of course, not all Yankee fans and Cowboy fans are purely motivated by the need to identify with teams that win most often (although neither team has won a championship in a while), but come on now, let’s be honest! Why else would someone who grew up in North Dakota become a Yankee fan or someone from Seattle become a Cowboy fan? These teams give off the perception that they are winners.
What Peter hears Jesus say is essentially this: “I’m going to the Super Bowl/World Series and I’m gonna get my butt handed to me! Not only am I going to lose, but I am going to get crushed!” Peter (the one who Jesus supposedly gave the keys to the kingdom to just last week) says in rebuke, “God Forbid Lord, not you! You couldn’t possibly be defeated like that! You’re the conquering Christ!” Peter can’t see or hear that the cross is the path to glory, that humble service and giving oneself away is what brings everlasting life. That is why Jesus first tells Peter to get behind him (follow me) and then calls him a devil.
Remember that Satan is the one who tempts Jesus in the desert to deny his humanity and forego any kind of human suffering. Peter is called Satan because his image of the Christ at that moment is upside down.
The Glory of God does not come from being on the top. It comes from being on the bottom. The Glory of God does not come from power. It comes from powerlessness. The Glory of God does not come from a conquering Christ, but from a suffering servant.
Today, Jesus reminds us of the way things are: If our lives are all about giving over getting, then we’ll always win in the end. If it is the other way around, then we have already lost (even if you are a Yankee or Cowboy fan)!