Sunday, August 31, 2014

To Love and Not to Count the Cost - Homily for the 22nd Sunday in OT

This morning we see a very interesting dialogue between Jesus and Peter in which Jesus calls Peter Satan. At best, it looks like Jesus is using hyperbole; at worst, Jesus looks childish and insulting. After all, who calls another person Satan, anyway? So, what’s going on here?

Jesus has revealed to his disciples that He is going to Jerusalem where He will suffer and die. But isn’t this the same Jesus who has raised the dead? He’s the Messiah, after all! Messiahs don’t go into cities and die; Messiahs go into cities and kick butt, then take names. Like Chuck Norris. Or, at least, that’s what Peter thinks. Peter has this certain idea of who Jesus is and it doesn’t involve suffering. Peter’s idea involves a triumphant march into Jerusalem where Jesus kicks out the Romans and solves everything and then life will finally be comfortable. Because that’s what Peter’s Messiah brings: He brings comfort—not the Cross.

I am like Peter. I’m scared of suffering. I don’t trust God very well. I cling to the world and its allurements and I seek my comfort there. Sure, I try to love God, but I also count the cost of following Him. And that’s what is really the problem: I count the cost. I count the cost when I see Jerusalem and when I hear Jesus say he is going to suffer and die there. Since I count the cost, I ask: “Lord, isn’t there some other way?” And then, when I'm faced with the Cross, I'm like Peter: I'm ashamed of this Jesus. "I do not know him."

Thankfully, Jesus knows how I operate and he doesn’t leave me there. So He addresses my near-sighted cost-analysis: “Anthony, what does it really profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?” In other words: which will cost you more? gaining the whole world and losing your eternal salvation, or gaining eternal life but having to suffer and sacrifice for as many as 70, 80, or 90 years?

I’m initially convicted by this—because, if I’m a cost-counter, then I should actually count. And when I do that, I find that the pains of eternal hell are a lot more than the pains of 70 years.

But then I wonder: why can’t I have the comforts of earth AND heaven? Lord, why can’t I have them both?

Because of love. Love must choose. This is because love—if it is really love—ultimately suffers and dies for what it loves. So, Jesus is going to Jerusalem and He is going there to show us what love is AND to show us how total His love is for us—a love so total that He will lose everything of this world, giving it up in sacrificial love for us. He will even lose himself.

Peter says, “No, no, no!”  And by doing so, Peter is tempting Jesus will the allurements of the world. “Heaven forbid you should suffer, Lord. You’re supposed to be comfortable!” Hence Jesus’ response.

But there is something more that Peter is saying, whether he intends to or not. Peter is telling Jesus: “Lord, your death in Jerusalem—that’s not what love is!” And here’s the kicker: “Lord, I’m not worth that kind of sacrifice anyway!”

When Jesus turns towards Jerusalem, He is saying to Peter and to all of us: “Peter, I love you more than all of the world. I love you more than myself.” Notice, then, how much you are worth to God! You are worth more than all of the treasures and powers of the world. You are even worth His life! This is what He is trying to show us.

The question is whether or not we love Him in return. Do we love Jesus enough to suffer for Him?

Hear the words of St. Paul: “I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God…” Offer yourself as a living sacrifice. This is what Jesus did, right? And why? Because He wanted to reconcile the world to God and show us His love. Doesn’t this still happen at the Eucharist when the priest says, “This is my body, given up for you?”

How are we to respond to this? Well, if we are frustrated or anxious or hurt by the events of the world, I must ask: Have we suffered for it? I don't mean: have we simply been hurt by it or been passively anxious about it. No, have we actively and deliberately chosen to offer ourselves as a sacrifice to God in reparation for sin and for the sanctification of souls? In other words, it’s not enough to be hurt by what has been going on in the world, we must actually and intentionally take up our cross and follow Jesus to Jerusalem, to the place of suffering. Have we joined ourselves to the suffering Christ-- that same suffering Savior who is present here in the Eucharist?

Thus, when we wake up in the morning and suffer that moment of not wanting to get out of bed, we can offer that to the Lord for the salvation of the world. When we have a chance to eat more than we should, we can eat smaller amounts and offer our hunger to the Lord. When we have a chance to check our phones for the hundredth time today, we can forego that curiosity of the world and our avoidance of God and kneel down in prayer and offer that sacrifice to the Father. Every decision in life, from the biggest to the smallest, can be a decision to love, if only it chooses to love God instead of ourselves-- if only it chooses to carry the cross in sacrificial, self-emptying love over self-preserving comfort. "For he who saves his life will lose it. But all who lose their life for my sake will gain it!"

Brothers and sisters, heaven is not given to those who were comfortable here. Heaven is given to those who loved. And those who loved, suffered.

Be not afraid of the Cross. And do not count the cost. And if you do, see the glory! Hear the words of Paul once more: “Brothers and sisters, do not conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”

Let us ask Jesus for that grace right now!

Lord, transform me. Purify my love. Strengthen me so that I may suffer with you for the salvation of my soul and for the whole world. Comfort me when I fail, comfort me by this perfect sacrifice of the Mass and receive it as it is all that I can offer you.

And Lord...  please remind me—remind me that when you had the same choice as I did, remind me that you chose to suffer for love. Remind me that you chose me over all of this world’s treasures because you loved me more than the world and all that was in it. You suffered for love of me. Please help me to do the same for love of you! For you are the greatest gain. You are worth any cost!

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