For the 22nd Sunday of OT (A), the liturgy proposes for our reflection the Way of the Cross. The selection from Matthew 16:21-28 is associated with Romans 12:1-2, a passage that when understood in the light of Matthew 16:21-28 highlights the Christian’s association with the sacrifice of Christ. Below are some passages from John Chrysostom and Pseudo-Clement on the topic:
In the Gospel of John one reads: “If the grain of wheat, falling to the ground, does not die, it remains alone; but when it does, it bears great fruit” (John 12:24). Here, in treating the argument of this truth with greater clarity, Jesus adds that he alone does not have to die but that also his disciples should be ready to suffer and to die. There are — he makes us understand — so many benefits from this temporary suffering that it would be a loss and a disgrace for you not to wish to die, while it would be a good and a grace if you were disposed to the supreme sacrifice. But this is made manifest with the evidence of the words that follow. For now, Christ explains only a part of such a truth. Note how he does not put any restrictions in his words. For example, he does not say “Whether you like it or not, it is necessary that you confront grave sufferings.” He only says: “Who wishes to come after me…” (Matthew 16:24), that is I am not forcing anyone nor obliging anyone to follow me, but I let each be the master of his own choice. For this, I say “who wishes”. I invite you to what is good, I don’t call you to evils or to pain, nor to punishment and torture that I should force you. The nature of this same good has sufficient strength to attract you. Speaking thus, the Lord attracts all the more strongly. Who uses violence, whoever uses strength to force anyone, often ends up pushing people away. On the contrary, whoever leaves to the choice of his listeners the freedom to choose or to push aside something, draws them to himself more securely. The respect and obsequiousness to freedom is stronger than violence. It is because of this that Jesus says here “who wishes”. The goods I offer — he makes us understand — are so great and exceptional that you will have to run spontaneously towards them. If anyone would offer you gold and he puts before you a treasure, he certainly wouldn’t be using violence in proposing it to you. Now if we walk towards those gifts without being pushed by any constricting force, all the more should we run towards heavenly goods. If the nature of these goods by itself does not convince you to run to them so as to obtain them, then that indicates that you yourself are not worthy to receive them. In case you receive them (without being attracted to them), you wouldn’t be in a position to wholly appreciate their value. This is why Christ does not force anyone, but with indulgence exhorts us. Since Jesus notices his disciples whispering to each other, afraid of his words, he adds: Do not be troubled. If you are not convinced that what I propose when it is realized not only in me but also in you, causes something infinitely good, then I am not forcing you nor do I constrict you; rather I call only those who wish to follow me. And don’t think that “following me” is what you have been doing me until now, walking with me iin my pilgrimage. It is necessary that you should bear much hardship, numerous dangers, if you really wish to walk behind me. You, O Peter, you who has recognized me as Son of God, you ought not certainly to pretend that you have obtained the crown only because you have made this profession of faith, nor should you believe that this profession is sufficient to assure you of salvation and that now you can live in peace as if you have already accomplished all. Certainly I, inasmuch as I am Son of God, can exempt you from undergoing disasters and all the dangers to which you will be exposed, but I won’t do it to your interest, so that you can bring something that is yours, contributing to your own salvation and procuring thus a greater glory for yourself. If anyone of those who preside in the olympic games has a friend among the athletes, he would not proclaim him a victor gratuitously and only for the sake of friendship, but rather for his own personal efforts. It is because of this that he would ask thus, insofar as he is his friend and wishes him well. In the same way, Christ acts: the more he loves a soul, all the more that he would wish it to contribute something of his own strength to his own glory and not only obtain it with his help.
John Chrysostom, In Matthaeum, 55, 1
See therefore why all is filled with confusion, disorder and anxiety, because the soul is neglected and one forgets that which is necessary and fundamental while at the same time busying oneself with great concern with what is secondary and disgusting. Don’t you know that the greatest favor you can do for your son is to preserve him immune from impurity and fornication? Nothing in fact is more precious than the soul. “What profits a man” Christ says “if he gains the whold world but loses his soul?” (Mt. 16, 26). But the love of wealth has perverted and has overturned all: like the tyrant who takes over a town, so avarice occupies the souls of men and turns away the just fear of God. See therefore why we neglect our own salvation and those of our sons, having as our preoccupation that of enriching ourselves all the more.
John Chrysostom, In Matthaeum 59, 7
You know brothers that our pilgrimage in this flesh, on this world, is short and lasts only a few days. But the promise of Christ is great and wonderful, just as the rest of eternal life is great and marvelous. What other thing ought we to do so as to obtain these goods if not to persevere in the life of holiness and justice, remembering, that all the values recognized as such by all in this world are alien to us christians?
The Lord admonishes us in fact: “No one can serve two masters” (Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). If we have the pretense to serve both God and Mammon, we will receive a grievous penalty: What profits a man if he should gain the whole world and loses his soul? (Mt. 16:26; Mk. 8:36; Lk. 9:25)
Pseudo Clement, II Ad Corinth. 5
Originally posted 2008-08-16 01:20:40. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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