Fr. Americo Santos

Homily: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 3, 2023

We are in a society that glorifies winners. Winners are people who have accomplished great things; champions who make us proud, people who are successful in politics or business. We want to be like them sometimes because they have achieved what we would like to have.

But when we are Christians, we should know that winning is not everything in life. Winning can only take us so far. In fact, failure rather than success can play a vital role in forming the character of the person. There is more to be gained in losing than winning.

The readings the Sunday teach us that Christian life is not about winning or staying on top of society standards. Rather, it is about giving oneself to a greater cause. We as followers of Christ are to live life making a difference to others. Also, we are to live life by accepting and understanding self sacrifice, suffering, and dying as part of our own lives.

The first reading is about Jeremiah, who is known as "the weeping prophet" because he mourns over Israel's sins. He shares his struggles of being God's instrument. “The word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long”. Prior to the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah spoke out against those who took advantage of the political chaos in Israel. He condemned the corruption, moral decay, idolatry, and opportunism in Israel. As a result, he was attacked by his own brothers, imprisoned by the king, and thrown into a cistern to die. In all this, he remained faithful to his mission. He shows us the meaning of living for God’s purpose and how to walk the long, hard road of fidelity.

Jesus also demanded of the disciples Jeremiah’s courage and commitment in the Gospel. “If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” These words of Jesus are the center of Christian discipleship. To be his disciple is to walk the path of the cross. It is to lose oneself for the sake of the Kingdom. It is to commit oneself not to self-preservation but to self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

Last Sunday, Peter made his great profession of faith in Jesus as The Son of God, and he was appointed as the first Pope. But this Sunday all has changed. Jesus now calls him ‘Satan’ (Mt 16:21-7).

What’s going on here?

Peter last Sunday proclaimed Jesus as Christ acting under divine inspiration. And today he is acting out of his impulse and his own thinking, believing he knew better than Jesus. That may sometimes be our failing, like Peter. Sometimes we think we know better than God. We cannot understand and accept our cross. Sometimes we want to have Jesus but not his cross. We want a Christian life without suffering and challenges.

We should move from a culture of power and self-preservation to a Kingdom of love, service and self sacrifice for God and others. May God the Father help us to have the courage to follow his Son and accept the demands of Christian discipleship.