Jakarta, 2 September 2014
A Christian Pilgrim
ONLY THROUGH THE CROSS
(A biblical reflection on the 22nd ORDINARY SUNDAY, 31 August 2014)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:21-27
First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Psalms: Psalm 63:32-6,8-9; Second Reading: Romans 12:1-2
The Scripture Text
From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hindrance to Me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.”
Then Jesus told His disciples, “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me, For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done. (Matthew 16:21-27 RSV)
As He spoke to His disciples, Jesus was clear that it is only through the cross that will be able to receive His life within us. Why? Because there is a big difference between human understanding of good conduct and the divine standard of holiness. In this passage, for example, Peter grasped part of the mind of God when he told Jesus, “You are the Christ,” but was unable to accept a further aspect of God’s will when he rebuked Jesus for prophesying His death on the cross.
Saint Paul spoke often about Jesus’ exhortation to take up the cross. In his letter to the Romans, he exhorted us to “offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices …… to be transformed by the renewing of” our minds (Romans 12:1-2). Like Peter, Paul learned through practical experiences that his mind and his actions had to be brought into alignment with the humility, obedience, and trust that Jesus manifested on Calvary.
Every day, the Holy Spirit seeks to transform us a little more, raising our natural, human thoughts up to a divine way of thinking and acting. Not only in our prayer times, but especially through the trials of life, the Holy Spirit presses us onward. Trial and conflict reveal where we are incapable of loving, serving, or forgiving as Jesus did. We simply cannot reflect the life and personality of Jesus without help from the Holy Spirit.
When you come up against your weaknesses, don’t be afraid or discouraged. These are opportunities to run to God for help. Ask Him to put to death in you all that does not resemble Jesus – every opposition to His call to unconditional love. Then, when you see even a small change in your heart, rejoice. By uniting yourself to the death of Jesus, you are coming to resemble Him in his resurrected, eternal life.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I bring to you today the situations in which I find it hard to reflect Your will. Put to death any resistance in me to Your ways. I want Your resurrected life in me. Amen.
Jakarta, 29 August 2014 [THE BEHEADING OF JOHN THE BAPTIST]
A Christian Pilgrim