Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus
THAT IN ALL THINGS GOD MAY BE GLORIFIED
The Cross of Christ is a paradox: It is precisely in dying to ourselves that we are reborn. It is through dying to ourselves that we find our true self, made in the image and likeness of God. It is through dying to ourselves that we are finally able to love God and others. It is through dying to ourselves that we finally find peace and true joy. It is through dying to ourselves that we are no longer obsessed with ourselves!
By accepting the cross we no longer fear suffering or death. By dying to ourselves, carrying our cross, and following Christ, we can become one with Him.
The Cross is not just the symbol of Christianity, it is the essence of Christianity. Every Orthodox Christian wears a cross around their neck and would never be without his cross. There is an old Russian saying, when someone misbehaves: “he acts likes like he doesn’t have a cross.”
THE SUNDAY LITURGY
None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.
This is a very difficult set of readings. The Gospel itself starts with a saying which many find hard to understand: must we really hate our family to be the Lords disciples? The point is that it is relative: what are we prepared to give up for the Gospel? Are we going to try and make our own cross, or accept whatever we are given? Jesus is probably trying to discourage the crowd of sensation seekers and hangers-on who are crowing round him. He wants real disciples, who are aware of the possible cost: not like the incompetent builder, or the useless king. To be a disciple, one must be prepared to follow Jesus anywhere, whatever it might cost in possessions, family or friends. We may never understand why, but then, who can know the intentions of God?
Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.
Humble behaviour is the mark of the Christian, as it always was the mark of someone “in favour with the Lord.” In the Gospel, we see Jesus watching the Pharisees: it’s almost amusing to picture them shuffling for the best places, the polite “After you!” to put themselves in a better position. How would they have reacted to his teaching? They may well have remembered the passage we read from the Old Testament, and realised that Jesus was teaching the teachers something they should be well aware of.
It’s probably a nightmare we all share to some degree or other - being locked out of the house, the sales, the big match, or missing the train, the boat or plane. Contemplating watching the crowds that have got inside, while we can do nothing, can be unnerving. Complacency can leave us in this situation: today the Lord warns all who listen to him to be careful, taking nothing for granted, but making sure that we are (spiritually at least) like the people waiting with their sleeping bags and thermos flasks by the front door of the ticket office.
I am not here to bring peace, but rather division
When we consider the Christian life, we often think in positive terms: peace, light, joy, goodness, life. And yet, as the Scriptures remind us today, that Christian life must be lived in the midst of a world which is filled with more negative terms: division, distress, cruelty and death. The words of the Gospel may appear shocking to us: Jesus says that he comes to bring “division, not peace”, and this seems totally contrary to the message of the Gospel! And yet, Jesus is not announcing his desire – of course he wants peace, not division – but showing his understanding of the world in which we live. He is inviting us to weigh up the cost of the Kingdom, a cost he was willing to embrace: as the second reading tells us: “… Jesus, for the sake of the joy which was still in the future, endured the cross…” Whatever weighs us down, let us endure and persevere, so that the fire of God’s love may blaze over the whole earth!
You too must stand ready.
Vigilance: we wait for glory or ruin, salvation or disaster. This is the choice that faces the Christian each and every day, as we wait for the Lord to return, as he promised he would. We often live our lives leaving such things to a distant, shadowy future - like the person who is going to fix that faulty lock or window-frame, but in the end doesnt get round to it before the burglar comes. The lamps of our lives should be lit and shining, filled to the brim with the oil of prayer and charity, singing the hymns of the fathers as we wait for the Master to return.
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Both first reading and Gospel today invite us to be “down to earth” about the Law of God. It’s very easy to become an “expert in religion” - knowing all the right answers, remembering all the right quotes, and so on. But for Moses and for Jesus, if God’s Law is to be kept anywhere, it must be in our hearts and in our everyday lives. We are not to be concerned with keeping our eyes fixed on heaven, if it means that we cannot see the poor man at our feet.
The link between the First Reading and Gospel is not immediately apparent today, until you look at the “headings” which are always chosen “to make the connection between readings of the same Mass clear.” (Introduction to the Lectionary n.123.) The “headings” present us with a simple picture today: a river of peace flowing out from the Lord, which we see in the Gospel as the flowing of the disciples as they are sent out on their first mission. From the Lord of Peace, others, like ripples in a pool, flow out carrying his simple message: “Peace to this house!”
Like every other institution which finds time to celebrate her founding pillars, today, the Church as an institution celebrates her own pillars upon which the Church was built. Saints Peter and Paul are regarded as the two pillars of the Church because of the great roles they played in the establishment of the Church of Rome which is today, the headquarters of the Catholic Church. Today’s celebration has a tripartite intention. The first intention is to remember and honour them for the great roles they played in the Church, especially in honour of their martyrdom. The second intention is to learn from their examples and the third intention is to ask for their saintly intercession. Though distinct in character and role, the Church celebrates these two Saints together to depict the unity that should exist between Christians irrespective of their differences.
The Eucharist is not an invention of the Church: it is a part of God’s plan of salvation from the very beginning: it is prefigured in the Old Testament, seen today in the food offerings of Melchizedek, priest king of Jerusalem associated with Abraham, choose bread and wine as the offerings. It is also revealed by the prophetic action of Jesus, in feeding the multitude, before he feeds the Church with the gift that is transmitted through the centuries. The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, is our communication with the Father, in the Spirit: it is the real presence in the Church’s ‘here and now’ of the eternal God; it is Covenant, Memorial and Promise, Meal and Sacrifice, the heartbeat of the Family of Believers.
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