Standing on the Rock Week 5: The Church is Apostolic. We are Called and Sent Out under the Banner o
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today we conclude our August series with a reminder that the Church was founded by the Apostles. The word “Apostle” means “he who is sent;” these Twelve were sent and commissioned by the Risen Christ a mission to Go and Make Disciples (Matthew 28:19). As a result, we know that most of the Apostles also gave their lives as martyrs, imitating the cross. In today’s Gospel reading (Matthew 16:21-27), Peter balks at the thought that Christ must deny himself and take up his cross. Last week Our Lord was praising Peter’s faith; this week he is condemning his worldly outlook. In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that the cross is a part of our life whether we want it or not, and what matters is how we face it and why we face it. He also encourages us to practice self-detachment and to remember that everything we have comes from God. No matter how often we try to accumulate things and ensure comfort, something prevents it from happening. Some people are wealthy, or healthy, or in charge of their lives, yet they feel something is missing.
All things that God has created only serve us to the degree that they help us and others draw closer to God. Sometimes we lose sight of that: we want a life that does not involve self-denial and the Cross, a life where we own everything we could want, not just everything we need. We seek financial security, comfort, and control, and we convince ourselves that we’ll be satisfied with having more money, more comfort, more control. The things of this world are fleeting, and we’ve all experienced that after one bill comes another, that we can’t always enjoy the health or comfort we crave, no matter how hard we try, and that there are many things that will always be beyond our control. When we get obsessed about achieving the impossible in this world – unlimited wealth (the latest and greatest and a big nest egg), complete comfort (no aches and pains, nothing unpleasant), and total control (everything arranged to our satisfaction) – those things that God created for our good become obstacles to drawing closer to him, and throw up obstacles for others as well.
Our Lord reminds us today that we can have the whole world, but not possess what is truly important: an enduring and fulfilled life. That enduring and fulfilled life doesn’t exist in this world, yet this world is the path to it. It depends on how we live in this world. Our Lord teaches us today that the only way to achieve what we truly desire is to take up our cross for the sake of a higher cause: his cause. Our Lord was ravaged on the cross, but not defeated, and from that Tree of Life an enduring and fulfilling life is made possible if we take up his cause and imitate him. The alternative is a ravaged world: the more we seek fleeting things, the more we flee from our crosses, the more we’ll suffer lasting misery, because if we put our stock only in the things of this world, they will, sooner or later, pass away. Let’s ask Our Lord today to help us see our crosses not as burdens, but as opportunities to help construct a better world in his name. Through our crosses, in his service, we can achieve a better life for ourselves and others. Let’s take up our cross and take up the cause of Christ (adapted from www.epriest.com). Questions for Small Groups:
What are the crosses you are bearing right now? How do you feel about Jesus’ statement: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)?
Which temptations have you experienced in your life in the past or present: a desire for (1) wealth, (2) comfort, or (3) control? Did you act on those temptations? If so, where did that leave you?
Do you have any experience of past suffering, that has led you closer to God? Have you ever shared this past experience as a witness to others?
Do you feel that you have a part to play in the Church’s Apostolic mission to go and make disciples? How does this mission involve sacrifice?