Sunday, September 3, 2017

22nd Sunday OT @ St. Apollinaris Church


Epictetus was a first century Greek Stoic philosopher. He was born in 50 AD into slavery. At the age of 18, he gained his freedom in Rome upon the death of Nero. 25 years later, he was banished – with all philosophers – by the emperor Domition. In exile, he returned to Greece and lived the remainder of his life teaching philosophy until his death at the age of 85.

Epictetus taught that philosophy was more than just a field of study ... but was rather a way of life. A quote attributed to him is:
What disturbs men's minds is not events 
but their judgments on events.

A similar thought is expressed by Shakespeare in Hamlet (Act 2, Scene 2), where the protagonist says:
There's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.
In other words, too often, an individual’s expectations play a larger role in their happiness … than whatever external event they may choose to pin the blame on.

Today is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. 

In the first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah cries out in complaint to God – saying that he was “duped” by the Lord – overwhelmed by the end results of his prophesies. Instead of repenting, the prophet watches as Israel’s leaders and people dive headlong into the demise that he has prophesied … without regard or concern for what this means.

Instead of respect, Jeremiah is mocked. Instead of generating repentance, his message is laughed at. 
His expectation that the message of the Lord would turn the hearts of the people from sin causes him distress when they fail to repent. He knows what is coming, and can do nothing to stop it. And it disturbs him to his bones.

Last week, in Matthew’s Gospel, we heard St. Peter’s bold profession of faith:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Yet, despite Peter’s ability to articulate the Father’s revelation in that statement; his own expectations of what being “Christ” and “Son of the living God” should mean … interferes with his ability to grasp the fullness of Jesus’s mission … and earns him the harsh rebuke: 
Get behind me, Satan!
Jesus scolds Peter for thinking “as human beings do” and not with the mind of God. 

St. Paul parallels this theme in his letter to the Romans when he says: 
Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …
Directing his listeners, and us as well, to pursue what is within the “will of God” namely, “what is good and pleasing and perfect [to God].

Jesus, in the Gospel, doesn’t back down, but rather continues to raise the bar with his disciples … giving them three steps to eternal life:
(1) deny [yourself]
(2) take up [your] cross
(3) and follow [Jesus.]
This, indeed, requires us to allow God’s grace to transform our minds – so that we can be true disciples of Jesus Christ … without the limits and distortions of our own expectations … and without the false and misleading expectations of a world gone mad.

As we approach this altar to receive the Sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, let us – in receiving Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament – allow our hearts, minds, and souls to be transformed. Let us open ourselves to true and total renewal in Christ Jesus – through Him, with Him, and in Him. 

And then freed from the constraints of false and limiting expectations – let us offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” as we continue with this Divine Liturgy of the Mass … raising our bodies, minds, and spirits to God the Father, through the saving sacrifice of His Son, and in the Power of the Holy Spirit … joined as one body … right here – in this building … united in this sacred act of “spiritual worship.