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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, “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 his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay each according to his conduct. Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his 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 allow any half measures: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). In many instances, when we are facing 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 help him... where He could, He soothed pain, whether physical or moral. So, what is happening, then?

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 wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever 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 can pain, fatigue and the cross in our lives, have any meaning, following the model of man the Father reveals to us in Christ. St. Augustine said: “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 with which the Father looked at his Son in the Cross.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “The soul will be a partaker of God Himself, and will do, together with Him, the work of the Most Holy Trinity. O souls created for this and called to this, what are you doing? What are your occupations? You do not see that, while seeking after greatness and glory, you are miserable and contemptible, ignorant.” (Saint John of the Cross)

  • “What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge they are loved. God is there first and loves me. And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing” (Benedict XVI)

  • "We live by the Spirit"; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we "walk by the Spirit." (Gal 5:25; cf. Mt 16:24-26) (Catechism of the Church Catholic, no. 736)