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‘Take up your cross and follow me’

Carrying the cross and follow the Jesus

September 3, 22nd, in Ordinary Time

Daily Readings: First Reading: Jeremiah 20:7-9, Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9, Second Reading: Rom 12:1-2 and Matthew 16:21-27

Before instructing his would-be followers to ‘Take up your cross and follow me’ (cf. Matt 16:24), Jesus announced that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die in order to rise again on the third day. Why must Jesus suffer? It’s God’s will. But why does God want him to suffer? It is in order to redeem the sinful world.

No one should come his way since it is God’s will, but Peter does. He was ignorant. Peter represents the ignorant, resisting, rejecting, struggling, and questioning humanity. The answer is found in the life of Prophet Jeremiah. The endurance of the prophet who surrenders to God and the Psalmist who thirsts for God has something to teach us.

The First Reading from the Book of Prophet Jeremiah throws light on his personal life. Jeremiah, the prophet cum priest, preaches, and Pashur, his contemporary deputy chief priest, persecutes him on account of the content of his preaching.

The historical scenario is that of 594 BCE, and the people of Judea are in Babylonian exile. False prophet Hananiah foretells an early return home, possibly in two years' time, while Jeremiah announces a longer and worse time to come. In fact, in 587 BCE, the temple of Jerusalem was destroyed, and another deportation took place.

Thus, Jeremiah’s words were true. Tired of his message of gloom and doom, people began to deride and ridicule him. It is in this context that Jeremiah feels that God deceived, coerced, or enticed him and prevailed over him.

It would have been better for Jeremiah to keep quiet, but he was not, as he experienced the Spirit of the Lord working in him like a raging fire. He continues to speak. Jesus does the same in the Gospel reading when he foretells his own end through persecution.

The Responsorial Psalm functions like a good bridge between the First and the Gospel Readings. The response reflects the spirit of the Psalmist, "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God". The thirst of the soul is explained in terms of a parched, lifeless earth longing for water.

The author longs for God as he fixes his gaze on the sanctuary in an effort to see God’s power and glory. He or she seeks intimacy with God as the soul clings fast to Him. Coming close to the ark, the Psalmist feels embraced by the wings of the cherubim, which reminds him or her once more of God’s intimate embrace. That is what happens to anyone who lives in the presence of God.

The Second Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is an exhortation. Paul makes three earnest appeals to the Romans. (i) They are to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice, which is holy and pleasing to God. God is not interested in animal sacrifice but in a life with a true change of heart. (ii) They should not live like the people of their age. That means the recipients of this letter must learn the art of discernment.

(iii) Their lives should demonstrate that they are living the will of God, which is good, well-pleasing, and perfect. They should allow God to transform them. It is because "The will of God is your sanctification" (1 Thess 4:3). Paul’s call for renewal of mind and rational discernment is crystal clear.

The Gospel Reading from St. Matthew’s account presents three important sequences of events. (i) Jesus announces for the first time that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, be buried, and rise again on the third day. (ii) Peter disagrees with Jesus and goes to the extent of rebuking him.

(iii) Jesus makes use of this occasion to teach the apostles a significant lesson on the cost of being a disciple. We can clearly see that Jesus is becoming more and more aware of his impending end and is willing to surrender himself to God’s will, while a human agent in the form of St. Peter seeks to divert his attention. Peter tempts Jesus to check his loyalty to God.

When he becomes a tempter of loyalty, Jesus teaches him to seek the will of God. It must remind us of Satan’s tempting of Jesus and how Jesus faces this challenge. We can clearly see the reversal of values: (i) whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; (ii) whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. In fact, one can’t afford to lose life in an effort to gain the whole world.

The believers are to seek the will of God, particularly when the going becomes tough. We are to choose hardship over comfort, defying the odds and the odd people who are fine in their own cocoons.

The one who chooses to glorify God will be like a fish that swims across the current. Jesus did that all his life!


Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.”  Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.