One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

+ + +

The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 31, 2008

For the Twenty-Second Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Matthew 16:21-27
Jeremiah 20:7-9
Romans 12:1-2

Everything in the Gospel today aims at our receiving as a reward our lives and our salvation when Jesus returns with his angels in the glory of his Father.
Jesus begins his Gospel today telling us that he will suffer and die at the hands of the nation’s elders and religious authorities.
It was “for us men and for our salvation,” as we say in the Creed every Sunday.
However, today Jesus calls our salvation a repayment he shall give to each man “according to his conduct.”
A repayment to each man CONDITIONED “according to his conduct.”
“For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay [each man] according to his conduct.”
What is the conduct that earns the repayment, but also, what IS the repayment?
The conduct is the conduct of Jesus himself, and the repayment is rising from the dead, as Jesus rose from the dead.
Risen from the dead, Jesus can die no more and can suffer no more.
Resurrection in Christ is life without bounds and joy without measure.
Faith in that truth can give us motivation to follow Jesus, even though Jesus today gives a repulsive description to his path.
“Whoever wishes to come after me”— come after me into the resurrection— “must ... take up his cross.”
Without a doubt, we can say those who first heard him found his words repulsive.
Taking on a cross— an ancient instrument of public shame, torture and death.
More recent versions?
Whoever wishes to come after me must undergo:
public torture and lethal injection,
or public torture and gas chamber,
or electric chair,
firing squad,
or noose.

The Gospel today is not inviting.
Rather, it’s revolting.
Is there an alternative to public torture and execution for someone who wants to follow Jesus into the resurrection?
Yes and no.
Jesus says today, “whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Jesus lost his life for OUR sake, and found a new life on the other side of resurrection.
It’s role-reversal in some respects.
All the trouble started with role-reversal.
In the Garden of Eden, we tried role-reversal; we tried to be God, to remake ourselves by ourselves, to redefine life and death.
The role-reversal required us to reject God as God and to reject ourselves as God had made us.
Try as we might, we can’t go back to the way things were in the beginning.
We cannot reverse our own attempted role-reversal.
The genius of God in Christ was to do the role-reversal himself.
God in Christ became a man.
God in Christ took on himself the lot of every sinner.
God in Christ suffered and died at the hands of sinners for the sake of sinners, and was buried.
On the third day he rose from the dead— thereby taking the role reversal beyond all its possibilities.
A dead man rose and ascended in flesh and blood to take God’s throne in heaven.
Man in Paradise was not able to take God’s place.
However, man in Christ sits on God’s throne.
Christ, the Son of Man and Son of God, has opened up for us the inviting possibility of following him onto God’s throne.
Sounds nice.
But still, what about taking on the cross, torture, execution?
The revolting condition for boundless life and joy at God’s throne simply means that we must not allow ourselves or anything to stand in the way of letting God be God.
We let God be God, and we push our selves and everything out of the way to we pray and worship God.
The second reading from the Word of the Lord today, the Letter to the Romans, tells us:
offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind....

We also let God be God whenever for his sake and imitation we serve the good of others.
We let God be God whenever we deny ourselves in the service of God and others.
We let God be God whenever we accept willingly whatever suffering comes our way for the sake of Christ and following Christ.
Here in his Eucharist, as always, Christ lives out his Gospel.
Here is role-reversal: God is the banquet for sinners.
Here he is alive for our sakes.
After we receive his life in his Eucharist, to live for him in return is to find our own joy and our lives everlastingly with the angels in the glory of the Father when Christ returns.

That God Be Glorified in All