August 30, 2020 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Remaining fresh and green always, in the Grace and Peace of the Lord, by finding strength for difficult times, in the ‘school of hardship!’”

(Based on Jer 20:7-9, Rom 12:1-2 and Mt 16:21-27 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time)

A story is narrated of a group of students who were taken around different places of a village.

They came upon an orange orchard, where an irrigation pump had broken down.

The climate was unusually dry and many of the trees were beginning to dry and die, for lack of water.

The man who was guiding the tour – himself a farmer – then took the students to his own orchard.

The students were surprised to see the green trees in this particular fruit garden.

To know the reason, one of the students enquired the guide:
“How is it that trees in your orchard are so fresh and green; you are not even using irrigation!

Whereas, most of the trees in this vicinity are dying!”

“These trees could go without rain, even for another two weeks!” answered the guide…
…” You see, when these trees were young, I frequently and systematically, kept them away from water for some time.

This hardship, caused them to send their roots, deeper into the soil, in search of moisture.

Now my trees are the deepest-rooted trees in this area!

While others are being scorched by the sun…
… mine are finding moisture at great depth

And thus, they remain fresh and green!”

The early schooling in hardship…
… helped the trees to find strength in difficult times

And thus remained fresh and green!

Christian Life makes us students of this particular school – whose term lasts life-long…
… and seeks to strengthen us, in difficult times.

This school… is the School of Suffering!

Wait a minute….

Do we already see some people telling in their minds and whispering a thought on their lips…

“Oh, Come on… not again a reflection on pain and suffering”..
“Give us something pleasant for a Sunday”…
“We know God is with us in suffering, but we are tired of listening to the same old groans and tales of pain!”

It’s a tough school, right?

It’s an avoided school, right?
It’s a “wish-it-was-not-there” school, right?

But it’s a reality…

As Christians… we are all enrolled in this Grace-filled “School of Suffering”!

The Gospel of the Day is a reminder by our Blessed Lord on how every Christian has a duty to joyfully be a student of the “school of suffering!”

The Gospel of this Sunday is a continuation of last Sunday’s passage (Mt 16:13-20)

Jesus had conducted an opinion-poll to know what people felt about Him

And the World declared its opinion…
… Jesus was a great person like one of the prophets and was acclaimed as a Wonderful Man! (Mt 16: 13-14)

Then, Jesus sought an opinion to know how His disciples felt about Him

And the Heavens declared its opinion…
… Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God and was acclaimed as an Awesome God! (Mt 16: 16)

Many of us are satisfied and contented with these two understandings of Jesus:

Jesus as a Wonderful Person…
… and Jesus as an Awesome God!

But the Gospel of the Day presents the opinion and the understanding of Jesus Himself:

He would be the Lord and Saviour, who would suffer many things and be killed and raised on the third day! (Mt 16: 20b-21)

He is not just a wonderful person: an exemplary human…a compassionate individual…a good personality…
He is not just a marvellous God…an astounding Lord… a Merciful Saviour…. a benevolent Master…
But He is also the Suffering Servant: The Persecuted Preacher…the Crucified Consoler…the Rejected Redeemer!

This, however, was a great scandal for Peter (Mt 16: 22)

He never expected nor wanted nor accepted that His Beloved Master would go through the “School of Suffering”!

But Jesus rebukes His prime disciple…
… with a very harsh reprimand, ” Get behind Me, Satan!” (Mt 16: 23)

That was a very strong statement made to Cephas – Peter, the rock of the group of Disciples!

But Jesus was clear and crisp in His convictions:
“You are not thinking as God does, but as humans do!” (Mt 16: 23b)

Jesus wanted Peter and the other disciples…
… and each one of us to know and digest this seemingly “bitter” truth: Lukewarmness and Slackness might help you slid through to win you certificates in the “School of Comforts”…

But, Patient Endurance and Unreserved Commitment alone win will laurels in the “School of Suffering”!

Cheating and Short Cuts might ease you through to gain many trophies in the “School of Comforts”…

But, Authentic Dedication and Staunch Loyalty only will succeed in the “School of Suffering”!

Reputation and Popularity might win you many successes and ‘friends’ in the “School of Comforts”….

But, Faithfulness to God will be ultimately tested only in the School of Suffering!

This is what the Three Readings in today’s liturgy teaches us:

The true follower of Christ…
… will have to deny oneself and take up the Cross. (Gospel: Mt 16: 24)

The True Follower of Christ…
… will seek to be transformed by the renewal of one’s mind. (2nd Reading: Rom 12:2)

The true Follower of Christ…
… will bear all insults & mockery & yet have the Fire of His Word within! (Jer 20:7-9)

Every School seeks to achieve a great deal of perfection and quality…

The “School of Suffering” too – which is the Christian Way of Life – too seeks to make us perfect and valuable…

The “School of Suffering” is a tough school…
… but there is much joy and satisfaction!

The “School of Suffering” is an avoided school…
… but there is immense value and treasure stored!

The “School of Suffering” is a “wish-it-was-not-there” school…
… but there is plenty of grace and blessings within!

Let us win the Greatest Prizes of Holiness, Saintliness, Happiness and Eternal Life…
… by becoming the wonderful students of this School of Suffering!

Our Great Mentor and Master and Teacher and Tutor – Jesus – is in perfect charge of this “School of Suffering”…

Let’s not be afraid…

Instead let us be encouraged, because this “schooling in hardship” alone will help us to find strength in difficult times…
… and thus remain fresh and green always, in the Grace and Peace of the Lord!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “What is the bed of tribulation?

It is simply the school of humility!”

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