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Homily for the Twenty-second Sunday, year A

01 Sep 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

In my homily a week ago, I did mentioned about how the devil put a thought in Peter, and how Jesus rebuked the satanic thought immediately. That incident happened when Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was going to surfer and die.

Our gospel passage this morning is a continuation of what we read a week ago, it gives the details of how Peter could not understand how the good and powerful Son of God would suffer and die. This is the person the whole world waited for, the messiah who was to come into the world, and here he is talking about his suffering and death in the hands of the elders and the chief priests and scribes. For Peter, it was unacceptable, and so he took Jesus aside and started to remonstrate with him. Heaven preserve you, Lord, he said. This must not happen to you. In other word, you are the Son of God, the messiah, you cannot suffer and you cannot die. But Jesus rebuked that thought as satanic immediately, because suffering is not always evil.

we understand that Peter was only been human, he was not the first to miss understand the theology of suffering. Jeremiah in our first reading this morning tells us how he suffered, how he became a laughing-stock and everybody’s butt. He was insulted, abandoned by his friends, thrown into prison for doing what God asked him to do. In frustration he planned to abandon the word of God, he said The word of the Lord has meant for me insult, derision all day long. I used to say, I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more. Jeremiah at a point in his ministry decided to abandon God and his work because of suffering, doing the work of God brought him great pains and humiliation, but he did not give up. He did not give up because he said, There seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it.

Jeremiah could not resist doing the work of God even though it brought him great pains, he had to do it in obedience and in love for God just as Jesus accepted suffering and death in obedience and love. He was not forced, he said, No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again; this charge I have received from my Father (Jn. 10:18).

Peter could not understand why Jesus had to suffer, but Jesus was actually showing us the way to glory. He said, If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. Pains and sufferings are not what anybody should pray for, I do not pray for them, and Jesus himself did not pray for them. He prayed the Father to take the cup of suffering from him, but he accepted to willingly and joyfully drink the cup if it is the will of the Father (Lk. 22:42).

Jeremiah did not pray for suffering, but he willingly accepted it in love. Even Peter who tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross later accepted suffering and death for the sake of Christ with all pleasure. It is unchristian therefore to think that anyone in Christ will never suffer, no. Jesus never promised that, he never promised a no-cross Christianity. To be a true Christian is to be prepared for battles, for anointing attracts persecution. We must be conscious of the fact that we live in the world but not of the world, so the world will fight us. The attacks and the humiliations we sometimes face does not suggest divine weakness or absence, but truthfulness and faithfulness of God. God is truthful, he did not and he is not deceiving anyone into following him, he never promised a smooth journey. He rather said that there will be tribulations, many will fall away, betray and hate each other, wickedness will multiply, there will be fake prophecies and teachings, but he who endures to the end will be save (Mt. 24:9-13). This is not a call to accept suffering unnecessarily, Christianity is not foolishness. But if we have to go through it for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so be it.

Do not begin to question the reality and power of God because of your experience in life, God exist, he knows everything and he is powerful. Do not let the devil take advantage of your situation to mislead you into thinking that there is no power in your Church, or that God is not strong enough to help you. Do not give up on the word of God, it is alive and active. The word of God is true, there is so much wickedness in the world, betrayal, fake prophesies and teachings, miracle centers and many other satanic strategies. Do not be deceived, hold on, your redeemer lives.