A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 40)
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – August 28, 2005
“Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me”
Jer 20:7-9 // Rom 12:1-2 // Mt 16:21-27
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 16:21-27) invites us to gaze more intently on the redemptive cross as we listen to the saving, efficacious Word proclaimed in the liturgical assembly and as we break the bread of the Eucharist. Having heard last Sunday the avowal of Peter, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16) and the special pastoral authority granted to him by Jesus, we now meditate more intently on Christ’s passion prediction. According to Matthew’s Gospel account, “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). Indeed, Jesus was announcing to his disciples his paschal destiny on the cross.
The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, comment: “We are accustomed to the cross of Christ. It is found everywhere: in churches and cemeteries, at crossroads, and in our houses. We carry it on our persons as an object of veneration, as a badge, or as a jewel. The Lord is shown on it in glory, peacefully sleeping in death, sometimes with his body broken by suffering. For Jesus’ contemporaries, the cross was the infamous wood of punishment, the mere mention of which made one shudder. Who would not understand Peter’s violent reaction? How could the Messiah, the Son of God, be subjected to violent pain, then killed, in Jerusalem, by the religious leaders of the people? God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you. How, indeed, could we accept even the idea of such an end for him who manifested in his teaching and his acts an authority and a power never seen in a human being? If we admit so readily that Christ must suffer his passion, is it not because we do not dwell – except once a year, on Good Friday – on this scandalous reality? Jesus feels Simon Peter’s reaction, though it is a human and spontaneous one, as an intolerable temptation coming from him. It reminds Jesus of Satan’s in the desert; he insidiously suggested to Jesus that he deviate from the way marked out by the Father (Mt 4:1-11). Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do. In effect, ‘How can you say such a thing after the revelation you received from the Father?’ Yes, how was this possible? Because Peter remained a human being. This sincere and enthusiastic faith of the typical believer had to confront – as must our own faith – in a harsh battle, the scandal of a Messiah suffering and put to death.”
After prophesying his paschal destiny on the Cross, Jesus delineates the meaning of the discipleship of the cross: “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” (Mt 16:24-25). Jesus thus connects the fate of his disciples with his own. Christian discipleship involves a share in his paschal sacrifice on the cross. Only in letting go of self and in letting God realize his mysterious, saving plan in us, can we achieve true life and happiness.
Indeed, taking up one’s cross is a badge of discipleship. St. Augustine reflects on cross and discipleship: “What does it mean to take up one’s cross? It means bearing whatever is unpleasant – that is following me. Once you begin to follow me by conforming your life to my commandments, you will find many to contradict you, forbid you, or dissuade you, and some of these will be people calling themselves followers of Christ. Therefore if you meet with threats, flattery or opposition, let this be your cross; pick it up and carry it – do not collapse under it. These words of our Lord are like an exhortation to endure martyrdom. If you are persecuted you ought, surely, to make light of any suffering for the sake of Christ.”
The great humanitarian and peace-worker, Chiara Lubich, reinforces the vital role of the cross in Christian discipleship: “The cross is the necessary instrument whereby the divine penetrates into what is human, and humanity participates more fully in God’s life, entering into the kingdom of heaven already here on this earth. But we really have to take up our cross. We must get up in the morning expecting it, and knowing that only by means of it can we receive those gifts, which this world does not have – peace and joy, knowledge of the things of heaven, which are unknown to most people. The cross is such a common thing. It never fails to come day by day. Taking this cross as it comes would be enough to make us saints. The cross is the emblem of the Christian. The world does not want it because it believes that it will avoid suffering by fleeing from the cross. People do not know that the cross opens wide the soul of the person who has understood it to the kingdom of light and love, to the love which this world is always seeking, but does not possess.”
by Eli Doroteo
(Member: ASSOCIATION OF PAULINE COOPERATORS – Friends of the Divine Master, Antipolo Unit, Philippines)
The call to discipleship entails suffering. Jesus himself, in his words to his disciples, asserts: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
As we heed the call to follow the will of God and Jesus who has shown us the way, at times, there are obstacles. Sometimes they are our attachments. They could be our families, our possessions and even our friends. In Jesus’ case, Peter – a disciple and a friend – tried to obstruct Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, which eventually led to Calvary. For Jesus, the way of suffering and death has a different meaning. It is a service and an offering of self to fulfill God’s saving plan. But Peter, seeing it in the context of the world’s desires, would not allow any evil or disaster to happen to his friend. His was a genuine, fraternal concern, which shows that our ways and thinking are far different from God’s. From a human perspective, Jesus’ way of suffering and death was futile and needless, but from the viewpoint of God and Jesus, it was a “necessary fault”.
Our attachments tend to blur our vision in fulfilling the calling we have received. The Gospel affirms that what could derail us in following the will of God must be cut off at once. We should and must resist the temptations of the devil and the evil designs of this world.
In our journey of faith, we make choices. This is where the challenge lies. At times, we take the shorter, easy way, and avoid the long, winding way. More often than not, the easy way out, the practical one, is the way of the world, and not of God. Jesus has shown us the way- the way of the cross – and no other. His death is the truth that brings life to the Church.
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. What is our reaction to Jesus’ pronouncement concerning his paschal destiny on the cross?
B. Are we willing to receive Christ’s message of his passion and death as an inherent element of the Gospel proclamation? Do we believe in faith that the paschal destiny of Christ and our own participation in it are part of God’s magnificent saving plan?
C. How do we actualize in our daily lives the discipleship of the cross? How do we translate into concrete reality the Christian challenge: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24)?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(From “Suffering with Jesus”, a prayer composed by Francois Fenelon)
Leader: O crucified Jesus,
in giving me your cross,
give me too your spirit of love and self- abandonment.
Grant that I may think less of my suffering
than of the happiness of suffering with you.
What do I suffer that you have not suffered?
Or rather what do I suffer at all,
if I dare to compare myself with you?
Assembly: O Lord, grant that I may love you
and then I shall no longer fear the cross.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16:24)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray for those who find the cross of their daily lives overwhelming and burdensome. In your own way and doing the best you can, try to alleviate the sufferings of the people around you.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may understand and appreciate more deeply the meaning of the discipleship of the cross and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 40): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323