This homily was not spoken the weekend of August 29/30.
This weekend is Maronite Weekend at Tequesta, Fl
Jeremiah 20, 7-9+ Psalm 63 + Roman 12, 1-2 + Matthew 16, 21-27
Last week he is called: “The Rock” and given the keys. This week he is called: “Satan” and put in his place which is where a disciple belongs, not in front of the master. Peter, flush with his new authority wants to do the leading, and he learns quite quickly that the kind of leadership Jesus desires is a leadership of service not of power or authority.
Peter has just made a profound statement of belief that Jesus is the Messiah. But, as often is the case with Peter, he got the words right but not the meaning. And so, now begins in Matthew’s Gospel an instruction period, a time of formation and preparation for Peter and anyone else who wants to get to Jerusalem; but the Jerusalem Jesus is headed for is the right hand of his Father. Jesus is going to show them where he is headed, and then he will show them how to get there. They want the “good old days” like it was when David was King. If we translate their idea into today’s political talk, we could say that they wanted to “make Israel great again.” But Jesus knows that Israel wasn’t all that great, and what we heard from the prophet today reveals that truth. There was corruption, oppression, and infidelity rampant at the time, and Jeremiah spoke up against it.
What Jesus will show them in the time remaining is that making Israel great again will be the consequence of sacrifice and service that puts other’s needs ahead of one’s own. What makes for greatness is not law and order which is what the Scribes and Pharisees are always after, but love. It is love that leads us home. It is love that heals. It is love that forgives. It is also love that makes sacrifice possible and often preferable to a promiscuous life that chases after one’s on security, pleasure, and privilege. In Jesus Christ there is no privilege place except at the back of the line. Meanwhile, Peter and his friends will argue among themselves about the seating order at the banquet.
What Jesus asks of us is a commitment to the risk denying to one’s self. It means, I am no longer number one. When love of someone other than love of one’s self has taken root in our lives, suffering is not a likelihood; it is a certainty. Anyone going to Jerusalem with Jesus is in for serious business. It’s not that suffering is being sought, but that it will inevitably be part of our lives just as it was for Jesus. What we can learn in Matthew’s school of formation is that this all begins with little things. There are all kinds of things in life we don’t like doing, but which we know we have to do if we want to be faithful to our responsibilities and obligations. Sacrifice is not an easy road. But, it is the way that our best self takes shape. This how one becomes a person of character and integrity. And paradoxically this also the road to happiness. Our happiness does not lie in doing our own thing or what we feel like doing, but in doing what we have to out love for another.