In my homily last Sunday, I exhorted and encouraged you to let the question Jesus asked his disciples echo in your mind all week: "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16:15). I stressed the importance of each person being able to answer that question from their own personal life experience. The extent to which we know "who" Jesus is will determine our readiness to follow him, especially as Christ and "him crucified" (1 Cor 2: 2). In careful attention to our readings for this Sunday's mass, we will notice that our confession of who Jesus is, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, demands of us a commitment to the way of sacrifice, suffering, and the cross if we want to put our commitment into action.
Let me rephrase the question from last Sunday: who is Jesus to you? He is the Christ, the Crucified Christ. The Jesus Christ we choose to follow is Christ crucified. He was born to save us by way of the cross. Sacred suffering is what Jesus shows and invites us to embrace as his disciples. Prophet Jeremiah's life prefigures this path of suffering for the Lord's name when he cried to God concerning his difficulty on account of doing his will: "The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day," he says (Jer. 20: 7-9). Nevertheless, in the words of the responsorial Psalm 63, the prophet's soul must continue to thirst for the Lord, his God. In our thirst and hunger for Christ, we must continuously conduct our lives in conformity with the Cross, always willing to offer our bodies as "a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God" (Rom 12: 1-2).
I would like us to make a connection this week between Christ, the Cross, and our conduct as Christians. We must endeavor to know who Christ is to us. Our call to follow Christ crucified, our response of faith, and our behavior of non-conformity with the world of self-absorbed pleasures have an end, a reward. We hope for heaven. Let us never forget heavenly rest as we deny ourselves, take up our daily crosses, and follow Christ crucified (Mt. 16:25); it is in giving our lives to Christ by way of sacrifice that we find our lives, for he promises us that "whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Let us, therefore, conduct our lives according to the example of Christ crucified. In what ways are you, along with Christ, willing this week and in the weeks ahead to offer yourself as a living sacrifice and non-conforming to this world? Think and pray about that question.
As we reflect and pray, I invite you to join the ongoing rosary novena in our parish. I encourage daily praying of the rosary to be offered as a birthday present to our Blessed Mother Mary on her birthday on Friday, September 8. I suggest you ask the Virgin Mary for your personal needs, especially the grace always, to do whatever Jesus asks of you, like denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following him.
One of the ways we offer spiritual sacrifices is through human labor. As we celebrate Labor Day this Monday, let us pray to God to sanctify our human labor. Let us ask God to provide work for people without employment and strengthen those who work with graces to unite their labor with the sacrifice of Christ. Come to Christ In Eucharistic Adoration, all you who labor and are burdened, and He will give you rest (Mt. 11: 28).
Happy Labor Day!
In His Joy,
Fr. Alayode Bernard, OP