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Scripture Reflection - September 3, 2023

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jer 20:7-9 | Rom 12:1-2 | Mt 16:21-27

Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York Scripture Reflection

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells the disciples that whoever wants to follow him must deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow him. This is just after Jesus chastises Peter for saying Jesus is wrong in his prediction that he will be killed in Jerusalem and then raised on the third day.

I don’t want to suffer and don’t like to think about the suffering of Jesus, outside of those few days during Holy Week - Palm Sunday and Good Friday - when it is necessary. Sure, Jesus has difficult days, and is occasionally run out of town, but there is a reason we, as Christians, focus more time on Easter than Lent. The Good News is the story and person of Jesus, which outlives and transforms the moments of suffering.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoffer writes about cheap grace and costly grace. Bonhoffer sums up cheap grace as grace without any personal cost. Contradictorily, costly grace demands carrying our crosses. This does not mean seeking out suffering or challenges, but acknowledging that suffering is part of the life that we live as humans and, specifically, as Christians.

Costly grace means that following Jesus is sometimes very difficult. It requires forming our conscience, discerning when to act or not to act, what decisions to make in situations that are not clear, and choosing the best course based on what we know about our faith, God, and the information about the situation in front of us. Our crosses might ultimately lead to an untimely death, though not likely on a cross. They may lead to death of status or fame. They might lead to the death of dreams, as we find new ways of following Jesus more closely. They might lead to imprisonment or actual death when standing up to oppressors, as happened to Jesus. More likely, our crosses will be smaller and involve reconciling with someone we don’t like very much or choosing to give up something we enjoy so that others can survive or thrive.

Like Jesus, we will have others there to accompany us on our journey of carrying the cross. We have companions who help us to carry our cross when we need it. Our Catholic faith means we are journeying with Jesus together, in a community of faith, joined throughout the world. Our communities of faith are there to support us, to welcome us back when we fail, and to model who Jesus is today. Being part of the Catholic faith also means we join with others who are suffering due to poverty, war, or personal circumstances. This same faith calls us to help alleviate the burden of the cross of others. This is the costly grace that we engage in today as we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus each day.

Sr. Jenn Schaaf, OP


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