Sunday, June 19, 2016

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Carry the Cross & Follow Me

Today's readings remind us of what Christ will endure on earth for us.

In the first reading, God says that He will pour out on the house of David the spirit of grace and petition.  He is referring to Christ who will be pierced, will be mourned but will open the house of David to all inhabitants.  Christ was sent to us by the Father to redeem us and lead us to salvation which can only be found in Him (John 3:16, Acts 4:12). This first reading is a foreshadowing of this.  Christ came and gathered all the flock of God to the house of David (Luke 13:34). Because of this, we should thirst for God as we read in the Responsorial Psalm.  God is the only one whom we should seek. God is the ends of our lives (Philippians 3:14).  What I mean by this, is that all human life, all life in fact, ends in God or its goal is God. We come from God and we will return to God.  As St. Augustine said, "Our hearts are restless until they rest in you o Lord. (Augustine, Confessions (Book 1)"  The same applies to even atheists.  Atheists may claim they do not believe in God or lack belief in a God, yet God is all they talk about.  Have you ever noticed this?  This is because they are (we all are) hardwired to believe in and seek God.  We can only seek God with sincere faith and it works along with God's grace and put into action via works (James 2:14-26).

As the second reading says, we are baptized into Christ and because of this baptism and faith, we are children of God.  Think about this. You are a child of God, THE GOD!  The God of the universe, creator of all seen and unseen is your Father!  How appropriate for today in which many the United States of America celebrates Father's day. Because God is our Father, each one of us is family (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6, Matthew 6:9, Ephesians 2:19). We are all brothers and sisters.  We may have different genetic makeups, but we all share similar genes and of course the heritage of being human and a child of God.  That is why there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free person, no male or female in the Catholic Church. We are all one body in Christ (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12).

Finally in the Gospel, we see Jesus asking who the people think He is.  The disciples tell Him that some think He is John the Baptist or Elijah.  Others think He is a risen prophet from old.  However, Jesus asks them who do they think He is.  Peter speaks first showing His primacy saying, "The Christ of God."  Jesus then tells them to keep this quiet. He does this because it was not the time to reveal Himself to the people.  Then He tells them what He will endure.  Jesus will be rejected by the elders, chief priests, scribes etc (Mark 15:1). He will be killed, but will rise on the third day (John 2:19).  Then He says that whoever wants to follow Him must carry His cross daily. If one dies because of faith in Christ, he or she will be saved.

Jesus is the one we read about in the first reading as I stated. He is the one who will be pierced and will suffer a horrible death. However, He would rise on the third day. This is of course the resurrection.  This death will be seen in the eyes of men as a failure as Pope Francis said at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City during his visit in September 2015 (see: However, this death is not a failure in the spiritual sense. Christ's death on the cross is the focal point of both covenants, the old and the new (Matthew 5:17). The blood of the Lamb would reconnect man to God and God to man (Matthew 26:28, 1 Peter 1:19, Revelation 12:11).

This Lamb is not a mere animal, but is God Himself; the Son of God (John 1:29).  We who are followers of Christ must do like Christ and carry our cross.  Do we carry it during Lent or Good Friday only?  No!  We carry it DAILY.  Our via crucis, so to speak, is supposed to be every moment of our lives. Every moment, every instance of pain and suffering must be united to Christ on the cross (Philippians 3:10, Romans 12:1-2).  We must not whine and complain when things go wrong.  Instead, we must rejoice and realize that this is a cross that is given to us so that we can have an opportunity to follow Jesus more and more closely (James 1:1-13, 1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Peter 2:19-20).  Those televangelists who preach prosperity do not understand Christianity. We are not meant to prosper in the ways of the world, but to die unto it and be born and live in Christ (Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 6:11, Romans 6:8).  As last week's second reading stated, "I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)"  This is how it must be.  May Jesus Christ be praised and may God bless all fathers living and deceased, including our priests.

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