“Albrecht Altdorfer 016” by Albrecht Altdorfer – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.“ Mt. 16:24
Last weekend’s liturgy taught us about the need for a personal relationship with Jesus (“Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15). We are called to follow Jesus who is “the Christ” and we come to know Jesus through the grace of God. God wants to be in relationship with us. That is good news!
The Gospel for this Sunday picks up right where that one left off. In it we discover that entering into a personal relationship with Jesus does not take away the struggle of life or make life easy. The fact is that life is not easy. Suffering is a part of every life. Being a disciple of Jesus means taking up our cross, and accepting the suffering that comes our way.
It may seem like the good news from last Sunday suddenly takes a darker turn this Sunday. However, there is still good news here. In our suffering we are not alone. Jesus has entered into the place of pain and suffering in our life and in the world. He is found there. That is good news indeed. Jesus teaches us that, “… whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16:25). When we “take up” the suffering that comes our way and allow it to be transformed by the loving presence of God we find the meaning of life! The good news is that Jesus redeeming love cannot be stopped. Where we think God is absent, Jesus assures us that He is there revealing himself to us. Thanks be to God!
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished.”
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Fire burns. Fire consumes. Fire destroys. Fire spreads.
Jesus came to set the earth on fire. A passion burned in Jesus’ heart that cried out for justice. He knew the Father’s love and saw the capacity of each person. He also saw, more clearly than anyone else, what opposed that vision. The forces of evil and injustice, selfishness and greed were working to oppose the Father’s love. The Holy Spirit burning within Him compelled Jesus to oppose everything that promoted injustice. With the passion of a prophet Jesus words flashed out against all individuals and powers that prevented human flourishing. How he longed to unleash that fire!
But he knew it couldn’t be unleashed without sacrificial love for the fire was love itself. Jesus’ baptism on the cross unleashed that great fire of love on the earth. His great sacrifice kindled the fire of love in the world. It revealed the love and mercy of God and his passionate desire to heal all creation.
That same fire of love burns in each of us. The Holy Spirit of love burns within our hearts and calls us to the same sacrificial love of Jesus. Through prayer and sacrifice may we spread that fire of love through our lives this week.
Lincoln A. Wood
Gather everything that happens, trivialities included, without reservation, regret, or nostalgia, in inexhaustible wonder. Step out, forward, one step at a time, from doubt toward faith, not worrying about the impossible ahead. Light fire, even with the thorns that tear you.
Br. Roger of Taize
The best and most nourishing souls are made of a few great and radiant acts of goodness and a thousand tiny obscure miseries which feed their goodness, like the wheat that lives from the decomposition of the soil.
Marie Noel, 20th c. French Poet
A relative of Ryokan asked the monk to speak to his wayward son. Ryokan came to visit the family home but did not say a word of admonition to the boy. He stayed the night and prepared to leave the following morning. As the wayward boy was helping tie Ryokan’s straw sandals, he felt the warm drop of water on his shoulder. Glancing up, the boy saw Ryokan, eyes full of tears, looking down on him. Ryokan departed silently, and the boy soon mended his ways.
Mary Lou Kownacki, Between Two Souls
What allows us to discover [an inner] transfiguration? With our thorns themselves, God lights a fire that never goes out.
Brother Roger of Taize
God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves.
Richard Rohr, Great Themes of Scripture