August 30, 2020
Jesus Christ tells us today, “If anyone wants to come after me,
that he denies himself, takes his cross and follows me.”
Reading the book of Jeremiah 20, 7-9
You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced;
you’ve been stronger than me and you’ve beaten me.
I’ve been the laughing stock every day,
everybody made fun of me.
When I talk, I have to scream,
proclaim violence and destruction.
The word of the Lord has served me
of oprobrium and contempt on a daily basis.
I thought I’d forget about it and I said:
“I will not remember; I will never speak again on his behalf”;
but there was in my bowels like fire,
something fiery enclosed in my bones.
I was trying to suffocate him, and I couldn’t.
Exit 62, 2. 3-4. 5-6. 8-9
R/. My soul is thirsty for you, Lord, my God.
Oh, God, you’re my God,
for you early morning,
my soul is thirsty for you;
my flesh is craving you,
like dry, exhausted land, without water. R/.
How I looked at you at the shrine
seeing your strength and your glory!
Your grace is worth more than life,
they’ll praise my lips. R/.
All my life I’ll bless you
and I’ll raise my hands invoking you.
I’ll get satisfied as of enjundia and butter,
and my lips will praise you jubilantly. R/.
Because you were my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I sing with joy;
my soul is attached to you,
and your right hand holds me. R/.
Reading the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans 12, 1-2
I urge you, brethren, for God’s mercy, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.
And do not conform to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of the mind, so that you may know what God’s will is, what is good, what pleases you, the perfect.
Reading the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 16, 21-27
At that time, Jesus began to manifest to his disciples that he had to go to Jerusalem and suffer there greatly from the elders, high priests, and scribes, and that he had to be executed and resurrected on the third day. Peter took him aside and began to incredulous him:
“Far from you such a thing, Lord! That can’t happen to you.”
Jesus turned and said to Peter:
“Get behind me, Satan! You are for me a stumbling block, because you think like men, not God.”
Then he said to the disciples:
“If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take his cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses it for me will find it.
Well, what good will it do a man to win the whole world, if he loses his soul? Or what can you give to get it back?
For the Son of man shall come, with the glory of his Father, among his angels, and then pay each one according to his conduct.”
Today’s Word of God presents us, at first reading, one of the most beautiful, genuine and profound confessions of the entire Old Testament, which immediately becomes a conversation with those who want to listen. It is the personal testimony of the prophet who narrates, in the form of prayer and conversation, the entrail of God’s call to him and his response: “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” This phrase intensely concentrates the core of the call and response. It is simply the synthesis of the love story between God and the prophet, a story not easy for him, full of doubts, stumbles, setbacks… but that comes to fruition. Indeed, answering yes to God is never easy, it is not something that is done out of pure taste; brings with it evidence, suffering, anguish, rejections on the part of the close. but it’s the right thing to do, the smartest thing, the best choice.
The prophet confesses that he let himself be seduced. Is God a seducer of people? Let us not forget that the seduced are always in love, passionate, fascinated. All this happens in the mind and heart of the prophet. In reality, the prophet feels this way to God: he cannot resist. But as much as he speaks of God, of his project, of his plans, the people seek other gods and other lords. In reality, it is the prophet who wants to seduce the people with his God. He is the one who must first live it in his heart and proclaim it to the people; and it’s not always possible for them to understand it and accept it.
In some ways, this prophetic text reflects the figure of Jesus himself in today’s Gospel, imbued with the Spirit of the Father, sent by Him to save the world, who wants to seduce his disciples with the proclamation of his mesianism and which clashes with Peter’s worldly mindset, who does not accept the path jesus has chosen.
Certainly the text of today’s gospel must be understood from jesus’ question to his disciples last Sunday: “Who do you say I am?” Once Peter, enlightened by the Revelation of the Father, confessed that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus himself begins to explain from himself who He is and how his saving mission will be, according to the will of the Father. Try to explain to them that their Mesianism will not be triumphant and glorious, neither violent nor worldly, but a path of surrender of one’s life in martyrdom sacrifice that will culminate in the wer of the cross and the victory of the Resurrection.
The disciples expected another type of Messiah, perhaps more in line with social and political commitment, and in Peter’s mouth they express their disappointment. And they find it hard to accept that Jesus wants to redeem the world in a different way; not from top to bottom, imposing itself, or from outside inwards, facing each other; but from the bottom up and from the inside out, from the little, the poor, the insignificant, the small, changing hearts and not the structures… God-style and not man-style.
Jesus’ rectification of Peter is blunt. “you think like men, not God.” And he invites him to turn himself behind, that is, to learn from Him, to follow his mark, to be truly a disciple. He calls it “Satan” and “stumbling stone,” the one he had named “stone” on which he would build his Church. Certainly the possibility of triumphant and glorious mesianism, without suffering or cross, was for Jesus a true temptation of the Evil One, who used Peter to propose it to him. How many times too should Jesus tell us the same thing! Because instead of being a hand that helps extend your Kingdom or stone in the construction of your Church, we are a stone of in the way that others stumble upon because of us. How many times do we sweeten Christianity and deprive it of its essence! How many times do we implicitly or explicitly reject the path of the cross that Jesus chose for our redemption! How many times is our mindset, without being evil, worldly, without ill intent it is imbued by the spirit of the world and not by the spirit of God!
Jesus’ request to those who want to be his disciples is clear and blunt: to deny himself and to carry his cross, to lose his life for Him to find it. What does it mean to “deny yourself,” “carry your cross,” or “lose your life for Him”? These are questions that do not have a single theoretical answer of rational elaboration. The vital meaning is found when we delve into the very life of Jesus, who, being the Son of God, did not flaunt his divine condition, nor did he use it to impose himself, but assumed his humanity with all consequences except sin. He assumed all the limits of his human condition and carried with the different crosses that the same life brought him. until the last, in which he was executed as an offering to the Father in fulfillment of his will.
Give life to find it… that only happens when we give our lives out of love and give it to someone. Jesus had given his life to the Father with total love and from the Father to all mankind. To what or to whom are we giving our lives, our time, our strengths, our love? To whom better than Jesus himself, who has given everything for us, who has given us everything. When we experience the beauty of such surrender, and also its bitter taste of the cross, it is when we can say as the prophet, “You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced.”
And it is Christ himself who, through his Spirit, with his word and with his life, invites us not to conform to this world, to transform ourselves by the renewal of the mind, to know how to discern what God’s will is, what is good, what pleases him, the perfect.
You seduced me, Lord, and I let myself be seduced.
At last, after so much struggle and struggle, You have overcome the resistance of my heart, as the light overcomes the darkness of the night.
You forced me. You violently violent me. You’re always God!
I’m the laughingstock all day. No one understands what love is in your Love.
Everyone makes fun of me, as if You had taken away my freedom to live.
I want to be your witness, and your Word turns against me. I pronounce it and it sounds hollow.
I am scorn and constant mockery, and I find myself like a dislocated bone.
I have said in my heart: I will never speak of You again, I will remember no more of your overflowing love. But it’s impossible. I can’t live without your presence anymore.
Because you’re like a burning fire that consumes me. More Lord: I have made efforts to contain it and I have not been able to. They’re laughing at me. It’s a different world than yours.
I feel lonely and lost. But I know you’re with me.
You, who know the bowels and heart of man, be like a strong soldier, inside me. Sometimes, Lord, I have said to myself, cursed the day I was born, the day my mother gave birth to me be blessed. I have wished to flee, always flee, get lost in an immense sea or in an infinite desert.
But always, Lord, You wake me up again, you seduce me again, and the struggle and tension are leaving room for the experience of your sincere love.
Lord, I know that my heart needs the measure of your love to be happy; I know that nothing around me seduces me and i turns me on until I’m filled with meaning.
Lord, even if I am left alone, even if everyone passes from me, even if they do not understand my decision to be yours, even if I fail and start over, even if my eyes are blindfolded and my tongue gagged, even if my feet and hands are tied, I will always remain yours, for You have loved me with love first.
You seduced me, Lord, my life belongs to you.
You seduced me, Lord, my prayer feels free. Amen.
(“Pray on foot barefoot,” 73)