The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 30, 2020 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:21-27
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Some preachers advocate what’s called today “the prosperity gospel.” While made popular by some television evangelists, it takes on many forms. What’s common to it is the claim that if you are a faithful follower of Jesus, you will experience prosperity. You will be healthy, wealthy and successful. Especially in economic matters. God will reward you not only in heaven, but also in this life. Clearly this message might appeal to some, especially those who feel that they could use some of that good stuff that is being promised.
I doubt whether today’s gospel is often mentioned by those preachers. It is positioned in the gospel text right after Peter’s reaction to when Jesus said that he was eventually going to suffer at the hands of the religious authorities and was going to be killed. Peter did not like what Jesus said.
It was there that Jesus said that those who would be his true followers, and wanted the life God desired for us, that they would also have to take up their cross and follow him. In other words, true discipleship would include suffering. This would entail God’s goodness, but not as “the world” might describe a good life. God’s ways are not always ours.
And this has been the true Christian message from day one. Many of the first followers of Jesus became martyrs. Many Christians over the years have given their lives to help others. This does not lead to the conclusion that all life must be painful or difficult to be good. But it does suggest that there will be difficult times for all of us. And that’s part of God’s way of loving us. Does this make obvious sense? Probably not.
I recall wisdom once shared with me by a spiritual director. He said that every person of depth that he ever knew always had gone through suffering at some time or other during her or his life. Spiritual depth is often the result of suffering that is willingly accepted and endured.
We are also called to resist injustice and humiliation in the world, whether it is directed to ourselves or others. Carrying our cross does not mean passivity in the face of injustice. In fact, we might find our cross in working for justice and in our efforts to make the world more just and humane for all. Think about it. That’s exactly what Jesus did.
©David M. Thomas, PhD