FRIDAY of EIGHTEENTH WEEK in Ordinary Time
The Responsorial Verse proclaims God as God: “It is I who deal death and give life” (Deuteronomy 32; 35-41).
Today (only) we read Nahum, who prophesies in [1:15] 2:1 to 3:7 the defeat of Nineveh, who had ravaged Israel: “Look! On the mountains the feet of one who brings good tidings, who proclaims peace!”
Often God seems to “stand by” and let it happen when we make war, oppress and violate others. This is because God also stands by his decision to give people free will. Free is free: to do good or evil, to heal or hurt. But God has not given up control. In his time and in his way he moves against evil and he triumphs. No one can really harm those who are faithful to him. God saves them even in death and destruction. The life God gives, no one can take from us (Matthew 2:20; 6:25; 18:8; 19:17; Luke 21: 16-19; John 3:16; 5: 18-29; 6: 27-58; 10: 10, 28; 11:25). God makes that clear: “It is I who deal death and give life.”
In Matthew 16: 24-28 (and in yesterday’s Gospel) Jesus reveals the true mystery of life and death, weakness and power. He reveals the mystery of his own unique, divine and totally unexpected way of saving the world: he is going to win through defeat, gain life for us by dying, and conquer evil by loving those who do evil. And anyone who wishes to join him in the mission and ministry of saving the world must do it on the same terms: “take up their cross and follow” his example.
We “take up our cross” by accepting whatever suffering falls on our shoulders and loving back. We try to avoid suffering and to free others from it, but when it comes — as in a free and sinful world it will — we endure it with love. We respond with love, not with violence, even to those who would kill us. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
This is the key to Christ’s way of saving the world. Peter, in the name of us all, immediately rejected it (see yesterday’s Gospel). Jesus’ own People (also in the name of us all) rejected him as Messiah because he calls us to endure suffering with love instead of protecting us from suffering. Jesus’ remedy for sin in the world is to endure the consequences of others’ sin and love back. This is not the kind of Savior we want. But it is the only one there is. To minister with him we must be “victims in the Victim” as well as “priests in the Priest.” We “present our bodies as a living sacrifice” to God for the world (Romans 12:1). “It is God who deals death and give life.” We give life by accepting death — in every way.
Initiative: Be priest and victim: Trust in no power but truth and love.