22nd. Sunday of Year (A)
(Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27)
I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Perhaps it will be clearer if I were to re-position the two sections of that paragraph from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans in this morning’s readings:
I urge you brothers, by the mercies of God, do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect; (thus, may you be able) to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.
In that way, there is no danger of any modern fanatics -- who abound on every hand -- thinking they can present themselves as Christians whilst committing suicide and the slaughter of innocents for political ends, and for a diabolically- misunderstood idea of the ‘glory of God’. Moreover, we can thus see more clearly the nature of our worship and love of God: that it is truly Christian – human and divine – first, by our trying to discern and do the will of God in our physical pilgrimage through life, that we might then – having been perfected by God through that loving obedience to His will in our life – be able to offer the living and dying sacrifice of ourselves in the truly spiritual worship of sincere love of, and total trust in, God.
Oh! dear People of God, how utterly important it is for us to:
Be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Our good life is not to be a mere living-out of generally accepted and, of course, popularly approved, ethical propositions and standards … so many non-believers today pride themselves on doing that!! No, we Catholic Christians are called to know (as best we can) and to love (whole-heartedly) the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ; and in Him, by His Gift of the Holy Spirit, to learn how to love God the Father Who sent Jesus, as our own Father now calling us to Himself as His adopted children in Jesus. Our faith is, indeed, a calling to personal love of God, and how ironical it is that the unbelieving world of today likes to understand its acknowledged faithlessness as a gateway to acceptably promiscuous (in both form and content!) human adventures in physical ‘loving’, as distinct from the Christian vocation of love which, being divine, is able to embrace and ultimately totally transfigure what is human and ephemeral, into what is divine and eternally fulfilling, in one word, into something CHRIST-LIKE.
Just recall Our Blessed Lord in last Sunday’s Gospel. Having previously heard Bartholomew (Nathanael) call Him ‘Son of God’ and ‘King of Israel’, He had gently ‘smiled that off’ as being too much based on too little; on the other hand, however, when He heard Peter declare ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ He immediately, without the slightest hesitation, recognized His Father speaking in and through Peter, and totally committed His own life-and-future- death’s work in obedient response to His Father’s recognized involvement.
That, dear People of God, is the most sublime example and model inspiring St. Paul’s exhortation today, ‘Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God’; and oh, that we might attain to some sharing in such love and discernment! As Jesus said:
Father, the world has not known You; but I -- man Myself -- have known You!
And Jesus’ whole desire and prayer is that we, though weak and ignorant human beings of ourselves, may, as His true disciples, come, in His Church, to that humble ‘discernment’ of which St. Paul speaks:
Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God.
How we are to be thus transformed, and how our mind is to be thus renewed, however, can only be learnt by humble discipleship from the font of traditional wisdom contained in the teachings of Catholic spirituality. It is not something we can do of ourselves, for it is a precious gift of God; but it is something for which we can dispose ourselves to receive from the goodness of God, by entering upon the ways of traditional spirituality distilled for us over two thousand years.
The essential beginnings for such spiritual renewal are given us in today’s psalm:
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God! ASPIRE TO GOD.
Your kindness is greater than life; my lips shall glorify You. THANK GOD.
You are my help, and in the shadow of Your wings INVOKE GOD’S HELP,
I shout for joy. AND REJOICE IN HIM.
My soul clings fast to You; BE FAITHFUL, PERSEVERE,
Your right hand upholds me. CALMLY CONFIDENT.
Time is now, as in so many ways throughout life, pressing upon us, but for all who sincerely begin to search for their spiritual renewal on the basis of today’s teaching, there is no doubt that God will notice their efforts and will not be found slow in coming to meet them as did the father embracing his prodigal son in Jesus’ unforgettable parable.