“We Proclaim the Cross”
August 30, 2020, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
The gospel for today is a continuation of last week's gospel where Jesus and Peter had a conversation. Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Some said He was Elijah, some said He was Jeremiah, some said He was John the Baptist. Jesus asked Peter, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus told Peter, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but the Father who is in heaven. You are Peter and upon this rock (the rock of revelation that you received from God that Jesus is Christ) I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you lose on earth will be loose in heaven because I will give you the keys of the kingdom.”
After this, Jesus Christ lays it out to the disciples what it means to be Christ. Christ, to the disciples, means He will lead them in defeating Rome so that they are no longer under oppression. Jesus had another thing in mind when it comes to being Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Christ and when we go to Jerusalem, I will offer my life to the enemies, to those who hate Me, to those who do not understand, to those who do not know God. I will give my life for a ransom for many, even to the point of a humiliating death, excruciating pain, insults, betrayals and false accusations. ”
Jesus said, “Upon this rock, this foundation of the revelation and the understanding of who Jesus is.” Who is Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ is He who gives His life on the cross, the foundation on which Jesus builds His church. If we build on something else, then, we are building another kingdom other than the Church, and our foundation is weak. It will not be able to take offensive against hell and the powers of evil.
I am reminded of the song “Upon This Rock I will build My Kingdom.” A line goes, “If in a simple carpenter you see the Son of God, if you would choose to lose when you could win, if you would give your life away for nothing in return, then, you are where My kingdom will begin.” Understand where the church is built on. Peter did not understand at that point. He might have blurted out something upon the quickening of the Spirit, but the mind got the better out of Him and said, “Lord, You are not going to die. Nobody will crucify You because I will stand in the way. Over my dead body will they do that. By no means!” Peter said, “No, Lord.” This statement is a contradiction to call Him Lord and yet not follow Him and say, “No.”
Peter said, “Of course not, Lord, for our understanding of the kingdom, of us being Israel the chosen people of God, is we take their lives just like Moses, Joshua, and Elijah did.” He did not understand the “Messiah-ship” or the “Christ-ship” of Jesus. Peter found himself in opposition to Jesus so Jesus said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Satan means adversary. Jesus is saying, “Don’t be a hindrance to Me.” It is sad today how Christians understand ruling and reigning by intimidation – by the sword. This is what the crusaders did before – killing their enemies by the sword – because they did not believe Jesus. Banish this from our thinking because the Church is founded on Christ; Christians still embrace this. Banish them for the Church is founded on Christ crucified.
St. Paul thought the same in the beginning that he was building the kingdom of God by eliminating those who were in opposition until he had an encounter with Jesus. In Romans 12:9-21, St. Paul wrote the verses to express the way of Cross. He begins by saying, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” People understand hypocrisy as being what we are not that if we hate somebody, we will not hide it. For us to know if we are a hypocrite or not, we must understand who we are and what we are made of. The Bible says that we were created in the image and likeness of God, and we are partakers of His Divine nature so we are like Him. Who is God? Is He an angry, furious God? Or is He love, full of compassion and mercy and forgiving? Is He gracious and blessing those who persecute Him? This is our likeness and if we act contrary to this Divine nature, then, we are being hypocrites.
Loving, blessing, praying for enemies and persecutors is not hypocrisy. It is the way of the Cross. It is following Christ. Not loving, blessing, praying for, greeting the enemy, and persecuting is hypocrisy because it is contrary to God’s interests. It is not condoning them or going with them, but loving and praying for them that they would find the right path.
St. Paul continues, “Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.” It is not by the sword but by repaying with good. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” The love that we learn from Jesus is the unconditional love – where there is no betrayal. “Diligently and fervently serve.” Serving is at all times - in good and bad times.
“Rejoice in hope.” There is always hope. As long as God is our God, there is always hope.” Do not sulk in complaints and in the negative things. Rejoice in the hope that we have in God. “Persevere in tribulation.” We leave during tribulation; the way of the Cross is to persevere. “Be devoted to prayer.” Do not avoid problems but pray. “Contribute to the needs of the saints.” We are blessed to be a blessing. We always have something to give. Sometimes, we will find ourselves in the needing end, and we will need contributions from our brothers. “Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; do not curse.” Cursing should be banished from our vocabulary. Bless those who are good to you and those who are not good to you.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice!” Do not dwell on crab mentality. Don’t be jealous. Rejoice with those who are blessed regardless. “Weep with those who weep.” Don’t rejoice in the misery of others, but weep and pray for them. “Do not be haughty in mind; be humble; do not be wise in your own eyes. Never pay back evil for evil. So far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” If people choose not to be at peace with us, this is their choice not ours.
“Never take your own revenge. God will repay,” for it is the same God who said, “Repay evil with good.” Don’t tell Him how. He knows how! God knows how to take vengeance – not on the people He loves but on the sin that destroys them. If our enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give them a drink. This is how we overcome our enemies. “Don’t be overcome by evil,” but overcome evil with good.” Don’t play their game, but play the game of the Kingdom. Romans 12:2 these are the good well-pleasing and perfect will of God. These are His interests.”
I have been preaching this and I will continue to do so until we get it. I hope Jesus Christ jolts us too to say, “Get behind Me, Satan. You are putting your own interests before God’s interests. You are going against the Cross. You are going against My mission.”
In 1Corinthians 1:18, St. Paul says, “The Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved (being shown the way to life), it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1Corinthians 1:23-25, “We preach Christ crucified.” Christ is He who is crucified. He is not who slays the people with the sword, but He who gives His life for their lives. It is foolishness to most but it is wisdom to us. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
In 2Timothy3:12, St. Paul says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Matthew 16:24-25, The Message Translation, says, “Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead. You are not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I will show you how… Self-sacrifice is the way, My way.”
To borrow Jesus’ words to Peter and turning it in a positive way that we can learn from, Jesus said, “Get behind Me! Do not get in front of Me because you are not the leader, and follow Me as I head toward Calvary, as I go to My cross and offer My life. You do the same.”
Be a rock, not a stumbling block; a rock confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, He is Boss, He is in the driver’s seat and we follow Him as He gives His life away because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God!