12 Sunday of the Ordinary, C
Zec 12:10-11; 13:1; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
After Peter and the apostles had expressed their faith in Jesus as: The Christ of God (Lk 9:20), Jesus immediately predicted his suffering and death he would endured: The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised (Lk 9:22). Then Jesus invited them: Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, takes up his cross each day, and follow in my steps (Lk 9:23).
Through the cross, death and resurrection, Jesus gave us a way through, leading us to the fullness of life which we ever earn for. He fulfilled that not by escaping suffering and death, but by facing them and accepting them as a ransom for humankind. By doing so, he has glorified God the Father. Thus, Jesus showed the apostles the contradiction of the Christian life. When the disciple bears loss and suffering for the love of God, he/she will find new life in Christ. To say so does not mean one let suffering and disease to disturb one’s mind and heart. When the Christian faces suffering and carries disease, he/she needs to go to the doctor and take medication. However, as long as we carry within our body and spirit, disease and suffering, we need to learn to accept them with love and trust in God, with expectation that we will be freed from disease and suffering in this life or the next.
What faith can bring is to help us face disease and suffering in the supernatural dimension. For Christians, Christ must be our joy, strength, consolation and reason to live. Perhaps not so many mature Christians lead a life without facing difficulties, obstacles and problems of life. Many married couples and families seem to be happy externally, but if we look deep in their personal and family lives, they are facing suffering in body and spirit. They are facing difficulties in family life between parents, husband and wife, children and brothers and sisters.
Faith in God must be our joy and support for thorny stretches of road. The faithful need to realize Jesus Christ did carry his cross and suffer for the sin of humankind so that men may live. The faithful need to realize that only when they share in the cross of Christ, can they participate in his glorious resurrection. When the faithful are ready to die to sins and vices, they will rise spiritually. In order to share in Christ’s new life, the faithful must be ready to carry their cross with Christ. What the martyrs did is to accept death for the love of God as to inherit a new life.
However, few people have been blessed to die as martyrs. Martyrdom can be understood figuratively. According to a figurative sense of death for faith, the faithful must be ready to die to sins and vices such as greed, selfishness, revenge, hatred, pride, self-conceit and careless attitude as to participate in the life of grace with God. To be ready to suffer ridicule and be persecuted for the love of God is to die to self a little. To be ready to pay the price for the way of talk and action of the disciple of Christ is to die to self a little. To be ready to lose friends, jobs and social status - if to keep those would become an obstacle on the way of discipleship of Christ, or hurt our relationship with God - is also to die to self a little. In a summary, only when we participate in the cross of Christ, can we share in his resurrection (2 Tm 2:11).
A prayer for being faithful to follow the way of the cross:
Oh Lord Jesus! You are all kind and merciful!
We give you thanks for coming to the world,
to suffer and die for the sins for humankind.
Forgive us for the times we drive more nails
to your body by our sins.
Grant us the grace so that we may carry our cross
to follow in your footsteps. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong