Homily for Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: Am I ready to Follow Jesus?
By: Fr. Evaristus Abu
Homily: Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Ps.77 & Matthew 16:24-38.
“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?” (Matthew 16:25-26)
The key to understanding today’s Gospel passage is to read it in the context of that of yesterday. Peter tried to remonstrate with Jesus when Jesus spoke about His passion and death on the cross. And Jesus looked at Peter and said to him: “Get behind me Satan…” Jesus then went on to explain the importance of the cross saying: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”
By beginning His statement with ‘if’ Jesus clearly wishes to state that following Him is not by force. It is a choice that must come from every individual. You cannot be a disciple or follower of Jesus and at the same time refuse to carry the cross. The Christian life is not an introduction to luxury and the material pleasures of this life, the Christian life is a call to self-denial.
St. John Chysostom explains the meaning of self-denial this way. When you deny a person, for instance, say a brother or a close friend, it means you would fail to defend that person or try to rescue him when you see him beaten, kicked, slapped and tortured. And so when you deny yourself, it means that you do not resist whatever sufferings, beatings or humiliation that comes your way as a result of your Christian Faith.
According to St. Jerome, to take up the cross is to become crucified to the world and consider the world as crucified to you. In the Lives of the Fathers, the Abbot John gives the following proofs of self-denial and a holy life: “Be patient under injuries, and not soon angry: be a peacemaker, and not rendering evil for evil: not looking at the faults of others, nor exalting thyself; but be subject with humility unto every one: renouncing all fleshly pleasures, and the things which are after the flesh, in humility of spirit in fasting, in patience, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, and in labours, shutting thyself up in a sepulchre, as though thou was already dead, that death may every day seem to be very nigh unto thee.”
In our first reading today, Moses says: “You must keep his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever.” The people of Israel had to keep God’s commandment in other to enter the Promised Land – Canaan, but for us today, we know that the land that awaits us is Heaven.
Jesus says anyone who wishes to save his life will lose it and anyone who loses his life for the sake of God will save it. For Origen, “this may be understood in two ways. First thus; if any lover of this present life spares his life, fearing to die, and supposing that his life is ended with this death; he seeking in this way to save his life, shall lose it, estranging it from life eternal. But if any, despising the present life, shall contend for the truth unto death, he shall lose his life as far as this present life is concerned, but forasmuch as he loses it for Christ, he shall the more save it for life eternal.”
The question is: Am I really ready to let go of what this world has to offer for Jesus? If for instance, my source of income requires me telling a lie or disobeying God’s commands, would I seek first God’s kingdom or would I rather do that which would put food on my table?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen in me that longing for heaven that my love for the things of this world may not become an obstacle in my journey to eternal life. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Friday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Deuteronomy 4:32-40, Ps.77 & Matthew 16:24-38).