"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
August 28, 2011: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Jeremiah 20:7-9
Synopsis: Jeremiah was a priest in Jerusalem at a time when the nation was in serious trouble. The northern kingdom had been destroyed by the Assyrians and now the southern kingdom was under siege by the Babylonians. In this week’s first reading we hear Jeremiah lament his pathetic condition. He had spoken out against the spiritual and moral corruption of his people. He warned them that if they did not repent of their idolatry Jerusalem would be destroyed and they would become slaves. Jeremiah told the truth, but that only infuriated the leaders, provoking derision and reproach. He was beaten and put in stocks. Jeremiah suffered because he refused to alter God’s word just to appease corrupt and faithless leaders.
In the second reading St. Paul urges us not to be conformed to the world, but “be transformed by the renewal your mind.” True worship, Paul says, involves offering your very bodies “as a living sacrifice.” By doing so we give ourselves in love just as Christ did. To be a Christian means that one’s whole life reflects the Paschal Mystery.
In the Gospel Jesus predicts his passion for the first time. But Peter, not understanding the Lord’s purpose, tries to dissuade him. Peter’s problem was that he still judged things by worldly standards and what was politically expedient. But Jesus reminds him that God’s ways are not man’s ways. The true disciple resists the temptation to be conformed to the world. Instead, he takes up his cross and allows himself to be transformed by Christ.
Key verse: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called “mystical” because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments. The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle” (No. 2014-2015).
Pope Benedict XVI: “St. Paul’s exhortation to the Romans is a concise description of how the Eucharist makes our whole life a spiritual worship pleasing to God. Catholic doctrine, in fact, affirms that the Eucharist, as the sacrifice of Christ is also the sacrifice of the Church, and thus of all the faithful. This insistence on sacrifice—a “making sacred”—expresses all the existential depth implied in the transformation of our human reality as taken up by Christ” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 70).
Life application: The transformation of our lives began in baptism, was strengthened in confirmation and continues in the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is inseparable from the cross. The cross is not just an emblem of our salvation, it is an invitation—an invitation to follow Christ and actively participate in his work of transforming the world. Our whole life as Christians follows the pattern of the Paschal Mystery, which alone has the power to change the world for the better.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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