22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:7-9
Psalms 63:2-6, 8-9
Romans 12:1-2
Matthew 16:21-27

For whosoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whosoever loses his life for my sake will find it…

We all want to live and we all want to save our lives, who doesn’t and would not want that?  We do not want to loose our lives that is why we take care of it and do everything to make “progress” in science and technology to make life easier and comfortable as it can be. What is wrong with that?

In man’s quest for perfection and living life to the fullest there is one obstacle, the cross, as Saint Paul would say to the Corinthians; a stumbling block for the Jews and a foolishness to the Gentiles but for us, Christians the cross is the way to live a fuller life.

Who wants pain, suffering or the cross, anyway?  Can we really live a life free of pain, suffering and the cross?  Or is it a lie that the world wants us to believe or man has created to avoid pain and suffering?  Is suffering, pain and the cross really that bad for our health?

The Lord wants us to deny ourselves to take up our cross and follow Him.  He is telling us that pain and suffering or the crosses in life are not to be denied or eliminated but have to be fully embraced, even if we do not want them.  Embrace the cross and it becomes sweet and bearable!  My yoke is easy my burden is light, says the Lord.  Bear with one another patiently.  This is what we need to be patient and even to bear wrongs patiently not only those things that we want.

Is there really a world free of pain and suffering or a life free of suffering and pain, or the crosses in life?

Remember the story of the prodigal son, he asked for his inheritance so he can LIVE HIS OWN LIFE far from his father and brother, no rules no restrictions, free at last, only enjoyment and fun no need to work in the farm, no pain no suffering, independence at last, but you know what happened, first few days indeed he had “fun” with his money he had friends, drinks and women.  After the money ran out however, he lost his friends, drinks and women for he cannot even have a good food for his belly that he has to eat what the pigs eat!  Away from his parents, being independent, having “freedom” did not give the son an assurance that there will be no pain or suffering only “fun” and “enjoyment.”   In fact, he went back home to his father.

I happened to read some of the life of the actor Kevin Costner and of course he almost had it all in life, fame, fortune and all the good stuff that man can possibly want and need.  But when he was asked what was the most painful or the thing in your life that you most regrets over and above all your accomplishments?  His reply was; when I had a divorce!  It had ripple effect in his life in fact caused him so much sadness and pain.

I had a classmate before in the seminary who did not become priest because he said I want to have a family because I do not want to be alone and lonely.  I said good for you.  I did not argue with him, I could have said that it doesn’t mean that if I am a priest I would be alone and lonely, but I did not.  After 5 years we met after all the updates I asked him; so are you married now?  Are you happy?  You know what he said; to be honest, I thought I would but even being married I have moments that I feel lonely and alone.

The point is my dear friends in whatever state in life or what profession we may have there is always both joys and sorrows in life.  It is not wise to runaway from the troubles in life or even deny it but humbly accepting and embracing them would be the best choice.  The good news is for us Christians we do not have to carry them alone, by ourselves, we have God to help us carry our burdens in life.  This is not a perfect world, there will be persons who are annoying but we do not have to kill them!  Bear with them patiently!  Our husbands, wives, children and even friends may not always be pleasant sometimes we want to choke them or even replace them but we should not.  Bear with them as they also bear with your inadequacies and weaknesses!

It is not that we love or like to suffer, far from it, even Jesus in the garden of Gethsemani prayed to His Father thus; Father let this cup pass, see, let this cup pass… but your will be done!  He suffered not because He wants pain and suffering, no, but because He loves us!  Pain and suffering or the cross therefore when offered to the Lord as Saint Paul would tell us in the second reading becomes an offering of love, a sweet fragrance to the beloved and even to the lover!

When you experience pain, suffering or the cross in your life, pray to the Lord saying; Lord I may not like what I am feeling or what I am experiencing now, but if its your will help me to carry and bear them, if it is for my good help me to understand and accept them, and may the burden, pain or suffering I am having now not take me away from your love, Amen.

Friends let us not pray for an easy and comfortable life but let us pray that whatever life throws at us we may be able to bear and endure them with patience and with love!

For whoever desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.

Fr Vincent Yee Concepcion

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