Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Transformed by the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness of the Cross of Christ"
Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
August 28, 2011
Year A

The great Catholic apologist and writer G.K. Chesterton once said that when he became a believer, it even changed the way he brushed his teeth. This is one of the reasons why Christianity is such a dynamic religion - it isn't limited to the sacristy and the altar; it overflows into everything we do and fills us with desires to do more and more. Thus, Christianity – Catholicism in particular – teaches us the truth about ourselves, our human dignity as children of God.

This passage of St. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us of that fact. Last week, St. Peter, with such profundity spoke on behalf of the other Apostles declaring Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. As I mentioned, Jesus did not rebuke him because this utterance of St. Peter was, indeed, a revelation from God Himself. In this passage, as Jesus reveals to His followers the first prediction of His passion, Peter speaks up yet again, though this time he registers a protest and he is sternly rebuked by our Lord calling him an obstacle. It is very significant that Jesus refers to Peter in this way. Remember that last week Peter was called ‘Rock’ and here he is called ‘obstacle’ – which literally translated form the Greek, ‘scandolon,’ or scandal, means ‘stumbling stone.’ So, how does Peter go from being ‘Rock’ to ‘Stumbling Stone?’ The Greek term refers to a stone that causes one to trip and fall. The difference between ‘Rock’ and ‘stumbling stone’ is grace verses nature. When Peter speaks what the Father has revealed, as we heard in last week’s gospel, he is the sturdy foundation that keeps evil at bay. But when he speaks from the standpoint of weak human nature, apart from grace, he is an obstacle – a stumbling stone. What Jesus is saying to Peter, is that to get in the way of His suffering would be a scandal, an obstacle to what Christ is to accomplish through His passion. What Peter does not yet realize is that grace, healing, forgiveness, the truth about human nature and our relationship with God will come by way of the cross, by way of suffering for fallen humanity and the glory of the Father. Peter would thus be an obstacle to the transforming grace of the Cross. He would be a scandal.

I don’t mean to take a via negativa but we have to examine further that which is scandalous behavior, in ourselves and in our society, so as to avoid being an obstacle to Christ, for ourselves and others. Pope Benedict XVI, in his address to the University at Regensberg in September 2006, commented on the harmony of faith and reason, the modern scientific method, and human dignity are all born from a Christian culture. The problem is that we live in a society that denies the truth of the sacredness of life and seeks to set up laws that destroy rather than promote human dignity. We’re seeing all sorts of atrocities and crimes committed against humanity – such as human trafficking, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, attacks against the good of the family, and human sexuality – all in the name of progress. What happens is that, politicians and even some religious leaders and all those who endorse such horrific practices become a scandal, an obstacle to truth, beauty and goodness. They erroneously claim and carry themselves as people who think they get it right. What they fail to see is that law itself – both civil law and moral law – are in place for the good of the human person so that we may live in harmony with each other. But what is progress if we wipe each other out? What is progress if there is no one left to enjoy it?

St. Paul gets it right when he speaks to us in our second reading: “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, pleasing and perfect.” In the context of speaking about His passion and His rebuke to St. Peter, what Jesus is telling us is that transformation can only come by embracing in our lives the imitatio Christi – the imitation of Christ – which is accepting our own suffering, our own crosses – for to accept our crosses is to accept Jesus, the cross is Jesus Himself. And it is in this context do we learn, in mind; by reason, and in heart; by faith – that which is true, beautiful, and good. Here will we learn how we can avoid being an obstacle to Christ in our own lives, how to avoid scandal. It may be much easier to simply give in to the decline of society, to conform to that which is more comfortable – but St. Paul issues a chilling challenge: do not conform but be transformed. And to be transformed we must fully embrace the cross and that will lead us to become truly the men and women God has created us to be – saints… Pope Benedict XVI comments:

“The saint is he who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth to be progressively transformed by it. Because of this beauty and truth, he is ready to renounce everything, even himself. The love of God is enough, which he experiences in the humble and disinterested service to the neighbor, especially to those who cannot give back in return.”

This beauty, truth and goodness is founded in cross of Jesus Christ and it is fueled by love. There, we learn that to which Chesterton was referring – how becoming Catholic changed the way he even brushed his teeth. He learned that every aspect of his being, and the sacredness of life itself, has its origin in the truth, beauty and goodness of God and even more so, that the Cross of Jesus Christ teaches us more about human dignity, about what it means to be truly human even through suffering because the power of God is manifest through suffering and in it the inner transformation of the soul takes place. And there do we find the strength to uphold and defend this dignity.May we look to Christ this day, as we gather to celebrate the sacred mysteries of His passion, death and resurrection, be transformed by His sacrifice in mind and heart and be conformed to Christ Himself.



Fr. Jon Reardon


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.




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