Greetings my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Today our faith community is gathered to celebrate the twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Equally, there are hundreds of thousands of other spiritual gatherings that are taking place today throughout the world in the Houses of the Lord before His Real Presence in the Sacred Tabernacle. How pleased Jesus must be with the loving presence of all His children.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Zechariah [Zech. 12:10-11] was prophetic in nature. Seven hundreds and fifty years before its fulfillment, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the prophet Zechariah foretold the piercing of the Lord Jesus on the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and the mourning of many for the One that they loved so much. This prophecy foretold of the tears of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the other women who were present, the Apostles and the many followers of the Lord who admired Him as a great Teacher.
This prophecy also foretold that Jesus, the promised Messiah, would be a descendant of King David who had lived two hundreds and fifty years earlier in time. How marvellous are the prophecies that are received from God. They are one hundred percent accurate, even when foretold one thousand years ahead of time. Truly, for God, all times, past, present and future, coexist as one, He knowing all things.
From today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Galatians, [Gal. 3:26-29] we are reminded that through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have become children of God, sons and daughters of God. Our adoption in the Divine family echoes that we are of Abraham's seed. This does not mean that we are of Abraham's biological seed but rather his spiritual seed. He was the first of God's people. Us, we are counted among the endless number of believers who have embraced the God of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus.
As a body without a spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. It is insufficient to just have faith in Jesus. Christ commanded us to receive the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church that He has instituted on earth. He commanded us to receive the Sacrament of Baptism, the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist through participation in the great Feast of the Holy Mass on a weekly basis. He commanded us to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony by marrying a believer to protect and defend the precious gift of faith that we have received from our ancestors by the grace of God.
To clothe ourselves with Christ means to continuously receive the Sacraments, to live as Jesus lived, to obey God's Commandments, to be faithful to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, to live holy lives by loving one another as Christ loved us. So great was the love of Jesus that He laid down His life for each and everyone of us.
Today's Reading from the Gospel of Luke [Lk. 9:18-24] delivered a number of spiritual messages to us.
First of all, the attention is drawn on Jesus. Who was Jesus? Who did the crowds think that He was? Who did Saint Peter think that Jesus was? There were those who believed that Jesus was John the Baptist who had returned. Some believed that He was Elijah. Others believed that He was one of the prophets of long ago who had come back to life. These answers echoed either returning from the dead or reincarnation. Both of these beliefs are rejected by the Holy Catholic Church. The dead do not return for a second chance. There is no second chance. When we move on after death, we are judged accordingly to the way we have lived in this life, this one and only life.
When Peter was asked who he thought that Jesus was, He answered, "The Messiah of God." The word "Messiah" is Hebrew for the word "anointed." The Greek translation is "christos" from which comes the word Christ. In Israel, kings, like priests, were anointed. The future King, who was to be the Saviour of His people and the world, came to be spoken of as "the Anointed One." The word was applied to the future Saviour in the Old Testament [Psalm 2], in telling of the conspiracy of the enemies of Jehovah and "his Christ." It was used in later Jewish writings; and the New Testament shows that it was in current use in Our Lord's time.
Secondly, the Gospel draws our attention to Jesus' prophecy that He would suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law. And finally, He would be killed. But on the third day, He would rise from the dead. Such a prophecy must have been hard for the Apostles to swallow. After all, no one comes back from the dead. When you die, your time here on earth is finished, now and forever. What was spoken by Jesus to the Apostles was meaningless at the time. It was only after His glorious Resurrection that the Apostles would remember his prophecy.
Thirdly, the Gospel draws our attention to the necessity to renounce one's life and to follow Jesus by persevering in the trials that may cross our daily path. Those who strive for fame, wealth, pleasures, they are lost. For these goals oppose spiritual growth. It is better to have little and to be happy with it, being thankful to God for all that one receives. It is better to be humble, submissive to God, obedient to the Commandments, than to elevate oneself above all others. Those who defend and spread their faith, they shall be glorified by God throughout eternity. Those who are ashamed of Jesus and their faith, refusing the defend and spread the Catholic faith, they shall be eternally lost. For one cannot serve two masters, the God of glory and the god of indifference.
Jesus said, "Take up your cross and follow me." That is not just a bunch of words; it is a strict command by the Lord Jesus Himself, to follow Him. This week, let us reflect on these Sacred Words of Jesus. Let us ask ourselves if we are being obedient to the Lord Jesus, if we are taking up our cross and following Him. If so, then praise the Lord. If not, then it is never too late to begin. This week, let us also pray for one another, especially for those who need to take up their cross, that they may find the strength to do so for the glory of the Lord Jesus.