The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
When you picture our world today, there is so much darkness. It is easy to be overwhelmed with concern for the future. How can so many people be moving so far away from the truth all at once? As strange and confusing as this world is, it is unfortunately masked by this incredibly attractive aura. This is the case now in 2023 and based on these words from Saint Paul to the Romans in this week’s second reading, this was the case 2,000 years ago. “Do not conform yourselves to this age,” he says. Do not fall victim to the pleasures of this world. But how do we even begin to do that when the world wants so badly to claim us? This is what Saint Paul has to say about that. “I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
If you’re like me and you read that and said “what the heck are you talking about Saint Paul? Offer my body as a living sacrifice? That’s a little dark.” I invite you to take a step back and consider this from a different perspective. Of course, Saint Paul does not “urge” us to sacrifice ourselves physically. What he is getting at is that there is so much evil that can be done when we decide that our bodies, our lives, are our own, made by us for the good of ourselves and only for the good of ourselves. It is this mentality that leads us to succumb to every selfish desire we have, simply because we can.
I am a sucker for when the readings correspond directly with the Gospel, and this is no exception. When we read the Gospel, we hear Jesus say, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Two times now in the span of 10 minutes (I’m a slow reader) we are invited to deny ourselves, resist the temptations of the world, get out of our own heads, stop focusing on our selfish desires, and turn towards the truth. For what?
Why would I give up all the pleasure that the world is offering? Why would Jesus and Saint Paul and all these other Saints try to take that from me? They must know something I don’t.
The truth is, they do know something I don’t. Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” He goes on to say, “For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.” There it is. That’s the line right there. Why should I give this all up? Because it is temporary. No matter how hard I search for happiness rooted in the world, I will always be left lost. The love and mercy of God, and the joy and fulfillment that comes with it is eternal. The question being asked is, would you rather be comfortable for the span of a life that will end, or be fulfilled for eternity? Seems like an easy decision. “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Do not be deceived. Sacrifice your desires for the worldly promises. Seek the Lord in all things and you will be repaid 10,100, INFINITY times over. That is the promise of the Lord.