Sunday Sermon for June 23, 2013, the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Zech 12:10-11, 13:1; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24
In the Gospel reading today our Lord “does the American thing,” i.e., He takes a poll. The difference is that He did not accept that the majority opinion was the truth. This is a point that Americans still need to learn. Regardless, in asking the question about who He is, St. Peter boldly stated that Jesus was the Christ of God. While this was far from the majority opinion, it was the truth, but the Apostles did not yet understand what that really meant.
Our Lord goes on to clarify what it means that He is the Christ. It means that He would be rejected, suffer greatly, be killed, and on the third day be raised. This, as we know, was still not understood by the Apostles until after the resurrection, but our Lord added something that seems often to be forgotten or ignored: if anyone wants to come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus.
We seem to like the idea of following Jesus, but we forget that to follow Him means that we have to follow Him to Calvary. People have the notion that they will follow Him into paradise while forgetting that the only way to Heaven is through the Cross.
There are those who will correct me on this point by saying that the only way to Heaven is through Jesus, not through the Cross. It is true that no one can come to the Father except through Jesus, but we also have to remember how Heaven was opened to us in the Person of Jesus. When St. Peter professed Jesus to be the Christ of God, what he may not have considered is that the work that constituted Him as the Christ was accomplished through His death and resurrection.
The next argument that people raise is that it was necessary for Jesus to suffer all of these things, but He did it all and we just need to receive the gift of life from Him. This brings us right back to where we were a minute ago when our Lord told that we would have to take up our cross and also that we would have to lose our lives. This does not sound like He did it all and expects us to do nothing. That would be cheap salvation, it would mean little or nothing to us, and we would get the reward without any cost.
Seen from another perspective, we can look at the second reading where St. Paul explains that through faith we have become God’s children and, having been baptized into Christ, we are descendants of Abraham and heirs of the promise God made to Abraham. All of this sounds real nice until we remember what it means to be a member of Christ. Recall what was mentioned above about the work Jesus did that constituted Him as the Christ. If we are members of the Christ, why do we think we are exempt from what is required of the Christ?
The Prophet Zechariah was given a vision of what would happen to the Messiah. He wrote that the people of the time would look upon Him whom they had pierced through, mourn for Him as one mourns for an only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Well, we are members of the only Son of God and members of the firstborn of all creation. It will be necessary for us to participate in everything that it means to be His members. This certainly includes the life of Grace, union with Him, the resurrection of the body and eternal life. However, it also includes the Passion and the death.
It does not seem to matter how many times these things are pointed out to people, they just do not want to hear it. Perhaps it is just a lack of understanding, as was the case with the Apostles. Perhaps it is willful. Regardless, it does not matter how many people share a particular opinion, the truth remains the same. Our Lord told us what would be required of His followers and there was no place in history where He had intervened to change His teaching.
When we consider the Apostles, we have to remember that they did not have the luxury of looking back, nor of the teaching and example of the Saints who had come before them. They were living it in the present. However, they came to understand and to live what they subsequently preached. Their teaching built upon that of Jesus and their lives were modeled after His. They became the authentic witnesses and examples for the Saints who followed. Nothing has changed. Ignore the opinions and embrace the truth, take up your Cross and follow Jesus.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.