Serving God According to His Will
A Reflection for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Based on readings from Jeremiah 20, Psalm 63, Romans 12:1-2, Matthew 16:21-27
By Rev. Robert Johnnene OFD
Mission Sts. Sergius & Bacchus/ Franciscans of Divine Mercy
This week has been an inspiring week and interesting week spiritually as well as politically. Spiritually the readings for not only this Sunday but the past week have all been about how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, should be living our lives and making judgments about how our country should act as one founded upon the principals of justice, freedom and equality FOR ALL ITS PEOPLE and the people of the world.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans 12 Paul urges us “Do not conform selves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, discern what is good and pleasing and perfect in the eyes of God”.
We must keep in mind that we humans have a tendency to look at the world through our inferior mind compared to God’s perfection as Christ tells us in this week’s Gospel from Matthew 16.; “You are thinking, not as God does but as human beings do” Whoever wishes to follow me, must deny themselves”…..”What profit is there for a person to gain the whole world and forfeit their life” .
Further on in Matthew 19: Christ tells us clearly "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."…."I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
According to Matthew in chapter 23 Christ is to have said; “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” Could this not apply to those churches that reject people because they are single mothers, divorced, or have a same sex orientation? Christ NEVER turned any one away.
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation " Does not this statement resound in you as what is happening to people who have lost their homes because of the unscrupulous practices of financial institutions?. "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.' "You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?” This is clearly an incrimination of those who place wealth and power above service to God by being charitable and compassionate to the poor, sick, and aged. Christ then goes on to make it completely clear that by swearing allegiances to God and living a life of “justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Outwardly you appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' "So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? (Excerpts from Matthew 23:13-32)
The above passage not only was talking about the Religious leaders of Christ’s time but, I believe, to the Religious and Political leaders of today who seem to somehow have forgotten the prime message Christ delivered on how to live but instead made up a whole new set of guidelines many of which do nothing but drive people away just as the rules of the religious leaders of Christ’s time kept people from worshiping God.
Building magnificent palaces as a sign of giving praise, honor and glory to God and His beloved Son Jesus the Christ is a waste of the funds that built them when they could have been used to annihilate poverty, illness and provide affordable adequate medical care and education and housing to millions of people all over the globe who are impoverished.
God did not ask us to honor Him that way, God wants us to honor Him by caring for one another and loving one another as His Son, Jesus Christ taught us.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world” these words spoken by Ann Frank in her DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL ring true today.
We don’t have to wait for someone else to change the world, we can begin now each one of us, individually by changing our own perspective and evaluate what we need to do to live God’s greatest commandment; “Love God with your whole mind, body and soul and love your neighbor as you love yourself” or as Christ told us; Love one another as I have loved you.”
Remember that Christ warned us; "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42) Might it not be better for us to "not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:19-20)
In a few days the official end of summer will be upon us and next week we will celebrate a holiday in the United States honoring all who labor.
Let us pray that those who employ people will be fair and pay a fair and equitable wage and provide for the wellbeing of all their employees and let us offer special prayers that all those who are unemployed find work so they can support their families.