Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Times have changed, Father. I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by our society.” And with these words, the elderly lady explained away her present living condition.  And with the same words, the young man justified his “wild” lifestyle, and with the same words the substance abuser justified his actions. And on and on and on. Add in whatever immoral behavior you can think of, and someone will say, “I’m only doing what is perfectly acceptable by society.”[1]

But what society is that? To what society is this acceptable? It is acceptable by the society that finds nothing wrong with hedonism, putting one’s pleasure before every other good in life, including respect for others, respect for country, and respect for life. What is the society that so many claim for themselves? It is the society that is at best amoral, but which is mostly immoral. It is the society that is at best pagan, but mostly atheistic. When a person hides his or her immoral behavior behind the “acceptable by our society,” argument, that person is invoking the society that St. Paul calls “this age,” or, according to some translations, “the pattern of the world.” This is the world that Jesus Christ came to save. It is the world of selfishness, a world of pride, a world where God is neither wanted nor present. It is a world of darkness. It is a world to which we Christians cannot belong.

We were joined to a new world when we were baptized.  Each of us is a key part of the new world, the Kingdom of God. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in each of our lives who look to us to illuminate their darkness with the Light of Christ.  The problem is that we are enticed by all that is around us to reject all that is within us. And so we often straddle major issues in life.

Even though we recognize our dignity as sons and daughters of God, we often let ourselves get involved in actions that are far less than holy. We think that we are OK, because we are firmly planted on the Lord’s dock, but the forces the other foot has stepped into draws us away from the dock, and we end up in the drink. We ask ourselves, “How did I get involved in something like that?” Then, responding to God’s grace, we not only seek forgiveness, but we give up the actions that we thought would not be all that dangerous for our spiritual lives. We Christians are called upon to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God.  That means that we sacrifice the pagan aspects of life in order to live for the Lord.

You duped me Lord, and I allowed myself to be duped. Jeremiah responds in the first reading.  Commitment to the Lord carries the cost of rejecting the world where He is not present. So, like Jeremiah, we want God in our lives, but we don’t appreciate the cost of Christianity until that cost becomes personal. Yet, like Jeremiah, we live for the fire burning within our bones, the fire of God’s love. We allow ourselves to be duped. We want God. Having God in our lives destroys all other possibilities in life.  The decision we have to make is whose life do we want, our lives or His Life. If we want His Life, then He will destroy those parts of our lives where He is not present.

“The problem with you is that you are thinking like the world does, not like God does,” Jesus tells the disciple he had just called his rock. Peter wanted to prevent Jesus from dying. Jesus said that the devil would want to prevent God’s plan from taking place. He actually called Peter a devil. Jesus was more upset with Peter for this comment, and then he was when Peter denied him three times. Why? Well, what did Peter do that was so wrong?  He allowed himself to be drawn from the Kingdom of God. He was conforming to the world.

We cannot allow this to happen. A world that is in darkness needs us to be its light. People are looking for hope. People are searching for a reason for living. We can give them that hope. We can give them that reason for life. We can be the Light of Christ for others.  We do not have to conform to a world of darkness. We can be transformed by God. Then we will experience all that is good and pleasing and perfect[2]

[1] 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time (A), August 31, 2014. Readings: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Responsorial Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27.
[2] Romans 12:2. 

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris