Scripture Reflection, September 3, 2023, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 20:7-9 Romans 12:1-2 Matthew 16:21-27
Like many of you, I’ve had the experience of physical therapy. PT is frequently ordered after surgery or an accident, usually after a person has begun to recover from the initial pain. The body has begun to heal and you begin to feel a little better.
Then you meet with the physical therapist. Stretch that muscle. Bend that joint. Hold it for a count of 30 seconds. Repeat. Do that 10 times. Ouch! “No pain, no gain”, they say.
And so, for the greater good, you work through the discomfort. It's worth it to regain the use of your range of motion, to rebuild strength.
In today's first reading Jeremiah admits that his role as prophet has caused him no end of grief. It has brought him "derision and reproach all the day.” He admits to being a laughingstock! And yet… It's better than the alternative! Not to speak the message he has been given by God is more painful. "I cannot endure it. “
In the gospel Peter tells Jesus exactly what he thinks about the possibility of Jesus suffering and dying. “No such thing shall ever happen to you! “
Jesus points out to Peter, in the strongest possible language, how shortsighted that vision is!
Any good physical therapist will tell you: If you think that not using that muscle, not bending that joint will help, you’re dead wrong. This temporary discomfort is necessary for your ultimate goal: complete healing.
“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”. There it is. The rock bottom truth of Christianity. To follow in the footsteps of Jesus by pouring out yourself, your time, your energy for the sake of the gospel, difficult as that can sometimes be, leads not to emptiness, but to fullness of life. It may seem contradictory, but it is absolutely true.
And so we take up the crosses in our lives: the losses, big and little, the difficult relationships, the physical limitations… all of them.
And we join them to the cross Jesus carried, confident that if we die with him, we will rise with him.
by: Pat Schnee