Monday, August 28, 2017

The Cross - September 3, 2017

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - A

Reading I: Jeremiah 20:7-9

Psalm:  63

Reading II: Romans 12:1-2

Gospel: Matthew 16:21-27

In this Gospel, we encounter Jesus trying to prepare His disciples for the fact that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer. In his usual spontaneous manner, Peter responds immediately, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

My own feelings resonate with Peter’s!! How startling is Jesus’ response...“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me! You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”  

I can imagine the shock on Peter’s face and those of the disciples who had heard Jesus. Peter is simply expressing love and concern, yet he is sternly rebuked by Jesus. What is this all about? Then, Jesus explains:

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 h
is life?
For the Son of Man will come with all his angels

in his Father’s glory, and then He will
repay all according to his 

—   Matthew 16:25-27

I am reminded that, I too think as humans do, or more accurately, I react the way humans do. While I know, intellectually, that suffering is important for our spiritual growth, I still find myself shrinking from it. However, we know that the human Jesus also sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane when facing his Passion.

Just this morning toward the end of Mass, I heard something which sounded like a series of low-flying airplanes. With the threat of possible war on the news, my imagination took me back to my elementary school years and the air raid drills. I recalled ducking under our desks for safety. Fear arose again. The thoughts of the horrors of war
gripped me.

To my relief, I later discovered that the sounds were from our maintenance men cutting the grass with a machine which had a cutter and a vacuum. How I appreciated the peacefulness when Homer, our companion dog, and I sat on my patio, watching the birds feeding on insects, hearing others singing, observing the cool breezes rustling the leaves on the trees and viewing the sunflowers dancing in the winds. How blessed we have been for so many years to live in a land untouched by war on its soil! How grateful we must be!

As I contemplated the sturdy sunflowers which have grown from little seeds to the height of about 17 feet, I was reminded that unless the small seeds were willing to lose themselves and disintegrate in the soil, there would be no sunflowers frolicking in the garden. Lord, give us the grace to carry our crosses, no matter how heavy they are, knowing that you are with us and that we can lean on You.  

How can I imitate Simon of Cyrene, the stranger, who helped Jesus to carry the cross when he had fallen beneath its weight?

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...

La Cruz

En este Evangelio, nos encontramos con Jesús tratando de preparar a Sus discípulos para el hecho de que Él debe ir a Jerusalén y sufrir. En su forma espontánea habitual, Pedro responde de inmediato: “¡Dios no lo permita, Señor! No te pasará nada semejante.”

¡Mis propios sentimientos resuenan con los de Peter! ¡Qué sorprendente es la respuesta de Jesús...“¡Apártate de mí, Satanás! ¡Usted es un obstáculo para mí! Estás pensando no como Dios lo hace, sino como lo hacen los seres humanos.”

Puedo imaginar el impacto en el rostro de Pedro y los de los discípulos que habían oído a Jesús. Pedro simplemente está expresando amor y preocupación, sin embargo, es severamente reprendido por Jesús. ¿Qué es todo esto? Entonces, Jesús explica:

El que quiera venir en pos de mí, se niegue a sí mismo, tome su
 cruz y sígame. Porque el que quiera salvar su vida la perderá,
pero el que pierda su vida por mi causa e
su vida? ¿O qué se puede dar a cambio de su vida?
Porque el Hijo del Hombre vendrá con todos sus
ángeles e
n la gloria de su Padre, y entonces
Él pagará todo según s
u conducta. 
- Mateo 16: 25-27

Me recuerda que, yo también pienso como los seres humanos, o más exactamente, reacciono de la forma en que los humanos lo hacen. Aunque sé, intelectualmente, que el sufrimiento es importante para nuestro crecimiento espiritual, todavía me encuentro reduciendo de él. Sin embargo, sabemos que el Jesús humano también suda sangre en el jardín de Getsemaní cuando se enfrenta a su pasión.
Esta mañana, al final de la Misa, oí algo que sonaba como una serie de aviones de bajo vuelo. Con la amenaza de una posible guerra en las noticias, mi imaginación me llevó de vuelta a mis años de escuela primaria y los ejercicios de ataque aéreo. Me acordé de agacharme bajo nuestros escritorios por seguridad. El miedo volvió a surgir. Los pensamientos de los horrores de la guerra me apoderaron.
Para mi alivio, más tarde descubrí que los sonidos eran de nuestros hombres de mantenimiento de cortar la hierba con una máquina que tenía un cortador y un vacío. Como yo apreciaba la tranquilidad cuando Homer, nuestro compañero y yo nos sentamos en mi patio, observando a los pájaros alimentándose de insectos, escuchando a otros cantando, observando las frescas brisas que crujían las hojas de los árboles y viendo los girasoles bailar en los vientos. ¡Qué bienaventurados hemos sido por tantos años vivir en una tierra intacta por la guerra en su tierra! ¡Cuán agradecidos debemos ser!

Mientras contemplaba los robustos girasoles que han crecido desde pequeñas semillas a la altura de unos 17 pies, me recordaron que a menos que las pequeñas semillas estuvieran dispuestas a perder y desintegrarse en el suelo, no habría girasoles jugueteando en el jardín. Señor, danos la gracia de llevar nuestras cruces, no importa cuán pesadas sean, sabiendo que estás con nosotros y que podemos apoyarnos en ti.

 Reflexión:   ¿Cómo puedo imitar a Simón de Cirene, el extraño, que ayudó a Jesús a llevar la cruz cuando había caído bajo su peso?


  1. Sr. Therese MW. SBSAugust 29, 2017 at 1:36 PM

    What an indescribably sad, but moving and
    inspiring, picture! Our Savior's astounding love is clearly indicated.

    The following quotation is from an article by Brian Pizzalto, of the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota.

    "Paul reveals to us the paradox of the cross. To be crucified usually means death; but for Paul, it means Christ living in him. In suffering, when united to Christ, death now means life. This is why he says in Corinthians 'For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1:18)' ...Participation in the cross through suffering is a way of obtaining grace, the power of God to participate in salvation. (1:18') "

  2. Pastor Tom Holladay ended one of his teachings with the prayer, “God, I want your will, but I want my will also. I know it’s wrong, but it’s how I feel. So I ask you to work in my heart to get me to the place where I can pray, ‘Not my will, but your will be done.’ “ Regrettably, I pray half-heartedly all too often because I also shrink from suffering as you mention in your post. In the readings from this week, Jeremiah and Peter both experience anguish as they actively participate in the will of the Lord. Jeremiah faces reproach every day as he spreads the message of God and Peter faces reprimand from Jesus when he objects to the suffering Jesus foretells. Paul counsels his followers to practice Christ-mindedness to avoid being lured by the trends of the age. What we all have in common here is resistance to the burdens that Christianity, at times, demands. At the same time, we are driven by a deeply rooted love of God that won’t let us rest because as Jeremiah states, it is “like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones.”
    I’m right-on with Jesus when He is preaching the Beatitudes because they speak of blessedness and provide the awareness of relational living that leads to true happiness. But when it comes to self-denial and taking up the cross I feel a sense of hesitation and fear. This is the human being thinking that Jesus pointed out to Peter. I know that problems and challenges are part of life and that the only way to grow spiritually is to partner with Jesus to guide me through them, but still, I resist even thinking of them.
    I believe that Simon of Cyrene was initially very resistant to participate in Jesus’ journey to Golgotha. Imagine the shame of walking behind a condemned man (Jesus commanded Peter to get behind Him) and bearing his burden. Simon of Cyrene may have been the brunt of demeaning comments and the spectators may have spit on him as well as on Jesus as they stumbled together along that dusty, rocky path. I further believe that in the process of sharing the burden of the cross Simon was transformed from someone who bitterly resisted bearing the cross to being moved to compassion at Jesus’ quiet acceptance of this unwarranted suffering and admiration of His determination to complete the journey. When the burden of the cross was lifted from Simon, I envision him remaining at the site, weeping through the crucifixion and being totally transformed when Jesus prayed the prayer of forgiveness from the cross.
    Simon was just passing by – travelling in an opposite direction – when he was called to turn around and follow in the footsteps of Jesus. When I think about Simon’s encounter with Jesus, I wonder how he must have felt when his eyes met Jesus’ eyes – surely a soulful, life-altering moment. We know not when we will be called upon to change direction and begin walking our own life altering path but we do know that we can call upon Jesus to help us to bear our burdens. Trusting in Jesus’ promise to be with me every step of the way, I pray that I will surrender my resistance and with confidence and humility proclaim, “Not my will, but your will be done.”
    Pat C., ASBS