22nd Sunday Ordinary A – August 30th, 2008 – The “Bill” of Freedom!
Bottom line: Here the Master is teaching His apostles that those of us who have tasted happiness today must realize that adversities await down the road. The Teacher is telling us, “I never promised you a permanent rose garden here.” If He did not substitute a water bed for His cross, He will not do so for us either!
Father Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông (St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA) 22nd Ordinary – Year A (2008) – [email protected]
The “Bill” of Freedom!
I will begin with a survey, a serious one. If the weather man had told you, that there is a thirty percent (30%) chance that Columbus would be flooded by Hurricane Gustav by the time you leave mass today, how many of you would still go to church? Good, very good! And here is the second one. If the department of transportation had announced, that there is 50% chance the bridge connecting Phoenix City to Columbus would collapse, how many of you would drive across that bridge to be at mass today?
My next step is to give you some facts about history! Even though she knew, there was more than a 50% chance her children would die in the Pacific Ocean and not be able to make their way to freedom, the mother still forced her children into the boat. Because she knew, that was the ONLY WAY her children could find freedom! My dear friends, I am talking about many Vietnamese who made their way to freedom in the USA – they are called Boat People! The mother did what NO mother would ever have done under NORMAL circumstances! But given the situation they were in, she knew it was her only way! The only way her children could be FREE! Many historians now look back and call them “Crazy,” I call them “great mothers!”
Last but not least, I now present the “ultimate truth!” He knew for sure, he would be killed! He knew the authorities were going after him. He knew his days were counted not by hours but minutes. He knew how he would die! He told his friends about this. At first they did not believe him, and when they realized this could be true, they tried to stop him! But he insisted! He MUST DIE! He died so that we too can die and rise with him! In other words, he died so that we can be “FREE!” – He paid the Bill for our FREEDOM!
That is what we heard in today’s Gospel. It points out to us a forgotten Christian truth. It would not be far off base to say it is one we want to forget. We enter here the strange world of denial.Bear in mind that Jesus’ prediction of His approaching suffering comes immediately after one of the rare glorious points of His life. Shortly before this Gospel opens, Peter told Him, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
That unexpected and unqualified credo made His otherwise bad week.We are being reminded that each time the Nazarene savored a win, He immediately e-mailed the information to us that He would soon be given a bill for that victory. Remember the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor? There He enjoys one of the few high points of His life. His face shines like the sun. His clothing becomes resplendent with a whiteness no Clorox can duplicate. Then the bill is presented to Him. “Tell no one,” says our Leader, “what you have seen…for the Son of Man must first suffer.”
Here the Master is teaching His apostles that those of us who have tasted happiness today must realize that adversities await down the road. The Teacher is telling us, “I never promised you a permanent rose garden here.” If He did not substitute a water bed for His cross, He will not do so for us either. Every one of us is anxious to receive favors from God. Usually we do. But, if we take the life of Christ as a guide, divine favors invariably come with a hefty price tag in the shape of a cross.
Happily, though, this grim tale is not concluded. We must not snap shut the Gospel book until the last pages are read. In those pages, we discover the happy ending that every one of us wants and needs – the mighty Resurrection of Christ.Naturally enough, we would like to alter that plan of action. Were we drawing up the game plan, we would eliminate the suffering and just bring on the glory train.
We identify with Peter in today’s Gospel. When Christ promises He is going to suffer, Peter replies, “Heaven preserve you. This must not happen to you.” Jesus, the original script writer, closed Peter down roughly. The Galilean is reminding Peter and ourselves that no faux authors are welcome. We are but the actors who strut about on the stage for a time and then watch the final curtain fall.
If savvy, we will recite our assigned lines correctly. We will resist the temptation to sneak our prose past the Master. Hopefully, then, all of us will win resurrection and a warm embrace from Jesus the Nazarene on the final day.
Fr. Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong