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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Nah 2:1.3; 3:1-3.6-7): See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, o Judah, fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed. The Lord will restore the vine of Jacob, the pride of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined the tendrils. Woe to the bloody city, all lies, full of plunder, whose looting never stops! The crack of the whip, the rumbling sounds of wheels; horses a-gallop, chariots bounding, cavalry charging, the flame of the sword, the flash of the spear, the many slain, the heaping corpses, the endless bodies to stumble upon! I will cast filth upon you, disgrace you and put you to shame; till everyone who sees you runs from you, saying, «Nineveh is destroyed; who can pity her? Where can one find any to console her?».
Responsorial Psalm: Deut32
R/. It is I who deal death and give life.
Close at hand is the day of their disaster, and their doom is rushing upon them! Surely, the Lord shall do justice for his people; on his servants he shall have pity.

«Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god besides me. It is I who bring both death and life, I who inflict wounds and heal them».

I will sharpen my flashing sword, and my hand shall lay hold of my quiver, «With vengeance I will repay my foes and requite those who hate me».
Versicle before the Gospel (Mt 5:10): Alleluia. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness; for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mt 16,24-28): Jesus said to his disciples, «If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys himself? There is nothing you can give to recover your own self. Know that the Son of Man will come in the Glory of his Father with the holy angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some here who will not die before they see the Son of Man coming as king».

«If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me»

Fr. Pedro IGLESIAS Martínez (Rubí, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, the Gospel clearly confronts us with the world... It is absolutely radical in its approach, and it does not admit any half measures: «If you want to follow me, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me» (Mt 16:24). In many instances, when we are facing the suffering generated by us or by others, we can hear: «We have to accept the sufferings God sends us... This is God's will..., or words to that effect», and we keep on gathering sacrifices in very much the same way as those trading stamps we used to collect, with the hope of showing them at Heaven's audit department when our day to present our statements of accounts arrives.

But our suffering per se would be of little value. Christ was no stoic: He was thirsty, He was hungry, He was tired, He did not like to be forsaken. He let others to help him... Where He could, He soothed pain, whether physic or moral. So, what is happening, then?

Simple. Before loading with our “cross”, the first thing we must do is to follow Christ. It is not a matter of first suffering and then following Christ... Christ must be followed from our Love, and from there we can then understand the sacrifice, the personal negation: «For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it» (Mt 16:25). Love and mercy may lead us to sacrifice. Any true love engenders, one way or other, some sort of sacrifice, but not all sacrifice engenders love. God is not sacrifice; God is love, and only from that perspective pain, fatigue and the cross in our existence, have any meaning, following the model of man the Father reveals us in Christ. St. Augustine sentenced: «When one loves, one does not suffer; but if one does suffer, the very suffering is loved».

In the ensuing events of our life, we are not to seek a divine origin to explain our sacrifices and shortcomings: «Why is God sending this to me?», but we rather have to find a “divine usage” for them: «How can I transform this into an act of faith and love?». It is from this evaluation how we are to follow Christ and how —certainly— we may deserve the Father’s merciful glance. The same glance which the Father looked at his Son in the Cross, with.