Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
September 03, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
you may nurture in us what is good
and, by your watchful care,
keep safe what you have nurtured.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Jer 20:7-9

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 63:2,3-4,5-6,8-9


R/ My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God whom I seek;

for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts

like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.  R/.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary

to see your power and your glory,

for your kindness is a greater good than life;

my lips shall glorify you.  R/.

Thus will I bless you while I live;

lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.

As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied,

and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.   R/.

You are my help,

and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.

My soul clings fast to you;

your right hand upholds me. R/.

Second Reading Rom 12:1-2

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Alleluia Cf. Eph 1:17-18


Gospel Mt 16:21-27

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.  Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  Or what can one give in exchange for his life?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct."

Catena Nova

What does it mean to take up one’s cross? It means bearing whatever is unpleasant—that is following me. Once you begin to follow me by conforming your life to my commandments, you will find many to contradict you, forbid you, or dissuade you, and some of these will be people calling themselves followers of Christ. Therefore if you meet with threats, flattery, or opposition, let this be your cross; pick it up and carry it—do not collapse under it. These words of our Lord are like an exhortation to endure martyrdom. If you are persecuted you ought, surely, to make light of any suffering for the sake of Christ (St. Augustine).

Who possesses God’s love, finds so much joy that every bitterness transforms itself into sweetness, and that every great weight becomes light.... Thus, living in God you can have no bitterness because God is delight, gentleness and never-ending joy! This is why God’s friends are always happy! Even if we are sick, poor, grieved, troubled, persecuted, we are always joyful.... We do not seek joy elsewhere than in Jesus and we avoid any glory which is not that of the Cross. Embrace, then, Jesus crucified, raising to Him the eyes of your desire! (St. Catherine of Siena)

Would that people might come at last to see that it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross....The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it (St. John of the Cross).

God created through love and for love. God did not create anything except love itself, and the means to love. He created love in all its forms. He created beings capable of love from all possible distances. Because no other could do it, he himself went to the greatest possible distance, the infinite distance. This infinite distance between God and God, this supreme tearing apart, this agony beyond all others, this marvel of love, is the crucifixion. Nothing can be further from God than that which has been made accursed (Simone Weil). 

Because being one with Christ is our sanctity, and progressively becoming one with him our happiness on earth, the love of the cross in no way contradicts being a joyful child of God. Helping Christ carry his cross fills one with a strong and pure joy, and those who may and can do so, the builders of God’s kingdom, are the most authentic children of God…. Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ’s cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power. (St. Edith Stein/Benedicta of the Cross).

Really living like Christ will not mean reward, social recognition, and an assured income, but difficulties, discrimination, solitude, anxiety. Here, too, the basic experience of the cross applies: the wider we open our hearts to others, the more audibly we intervene against the injustice that rules over us, the more difficult our lives in the rich unjust society will become (Dorothee Solle).

The traditional English translation of stumbling block is far superior to timid recent translations, for the Greek skandalon designates an unavoidable obstacle that somehow becomes more attractive (as well as repulsive) each time we stumble against it. The first time Jesus predicts his violent death (Matthew 16:21–23), his resignation appalls Peter, who tries to instill some worldly ambition in his master: Instead of imitating Jesus, Peter wants Jesus to imitate him. If two friends imitate each other’s desire, they both desire the same object. And if they cannot share this object, they will compete for it, each becoming simultaneously a model and an obstacle to the other. The competing desires intensify as model and obstacle reinforce each other, and an escalation of mimetic rivalry follows; admiration gives way to indignation, jealousy, envy, hatred, and, at last, violence and vengeance. Had Jesus imitated Peter’s ambition, the two thereby would have begun competing for the leadership of some politicized “Jesus movement.” Sensing the danger, Jesus vehemently interrupts Peter: “Get behind me, Satan, you are a skandalon to me….” Satan is skandalon personified, as Jesus makes explicit in his rebuke of Peter (René Girard).


You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church (Mt. 16: 18).  Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me (G- Gk. text). Within five verses of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus addresses Simon Peter by two titles, shocking in their contrast: “Rock” and “Satan.”  The one a title of highest regard, the other of utter contempt.  How could such a stunning rebuke come so soon after Jesus’ lofty tribute to the fisherman from Galilee?
Well for one thing, the sudden change occurred when a new word entered the disciples’ vocabulary: the word “cross.”  A word terrifying to anyone acquainted with Roman justice.  A word as unexpected as Peter’s earlier confession of faith.  For when Jesus asked -- Who do people say the Son of Man is? -- Peter was an unlikely source for the answer: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:13,16).  Peter, after all, wasn’t known for being a quick study!
  And that curve ball set the stage for the real surprise: Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed….  (G).  If only Peter’s insight into hidden things served him now.  But no.  The Rock falters and becomes a stumbling-stone: God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you (G).  See how that little word “cross” threw everything off balance.
Of course, the stumbling-stone of the cross is always a challenge to faith.  As long as the gospel doesn’t intrude on our comfort, words of faith fall easily from our lips.  But that business about, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me (G), that’s another matter.  The rough wood of the cross has a way of wearing down a rock’s hardness, even making it crumble.  Like Peter’s faith crumbled that day when Jesus’ prediction came to pass:  when lips that once confessed the Son of God denied him three times and Peter’s faith was rocked to the ground.
Peter, you see, preferred Jesus build his church on some other foundation. Something more in keeping with the times.  After all, who in the world would believe in a crucified Messiah?  Public opinion would never accept such a thing.  The cross –then and now-- is a public relations disaster for the church.  That’s why those who would like to reconstruct the gospel on some other basis always find support.  I think of the false "prosperity gospel" peddled by self-appointed charlatans who have prospered mightily by fleecing their misguided flocks.  There’s never a shortage of people who would refashion the faith, make it more “relevant” to a given age -- or at least something you  never discuss in polite company.
So Peter’s problem persists.  His objections can still be heard: “If only we could get rid of Christianity’s stumbling-blocks, people would come flocking to us.”  “Bring the church up to date and our image problem will be solved.”  “Get rid of those things that make people trip and fall.”  And by the way, I’m not thinking of the usual list of objections as if the church had only a few things to say about "the times."
Oh no, there are many other aspects of church teaching which might leave us between a rock and a hard place, especially in a culture of affluence like our own.  Things like the church’s stated preference for the poor; the church’s uncompromis­ing defense of human rights and the dignity of the human person including the immigrant and the refugee; the church’s critique of unbridled capitalism and the all-consuming desire for profit; the church’s insistence on the just distribution of the world’s wealth; and, of course, the church’s vital concerns about climate change and the environment. I could add to this list of other teachings rarely heard in certain circles, including Catholic ones, around which there sometimes seems to be a conspiracy of silence.  Unless you listen to the current successor of Peter, that is.  Francis is unrelenting in bringing such things to our attention.  Just this past week, he once more showed himself a pebble in the shoe to elements in the American church for whom such issues are simply not very rock-solid.  Speaking to fellow Jesuits, he commented how, 
The situation in the United States is not easy: There is a very strong, reactionary attitude. It is organized and shapes the way people belong, even emotionally…I want to remind these people that backwardism is useless, and it is necessary to understand that there is a correct evolution in the understanding of questions of faith and morals….The view of church doctrine as a monolith is wrong….If you don't change upward, you go backward, and then you take on criteria for change different from those that the faith itself gives you to grow and change. And the effects on morality are devastating….Those American groups…are isolating themselves. And instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies….But when you abandon doctrine in life to replace it with an ideology, you have lost, you have lost as in war." (August 5, 2023).  
For while the media are quick to indicate how many people ignore or dissent from certain teachings on sexual morality, the media rarely mention how many Americans do not know, care about, or follow, their church’s teaching on the just ordering of human society.  And many clergy are just as uneven in what they choose to emphasize — or minimize. I suspect the teachings I mentioned would turn many a rock to dust -- if the boardroom were to become as much a concern as the bedroom seems to be.
Those, like Pope Francis, who are unafraid to comfort the afflicted as they afflict the comfortable, might well utter the same lament Jeremiah voiced: All the day long I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me . . . The word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day. (I)  And attempts to soften the rock deserve the same response Jesus gave to Peter: You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do (G). 
So the advice Paul gave the Romans is still relevant: Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect (II).  Till that day when the Son of Man comes with his angels in his Father’s glory . . . [to] repay everyone according to his or her conduct (cf. G): Who live and reign, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For all who are suffering for the sake of the Gospel: that God will protect and sustain those who risk their lives to bring the Gospel message, the sacraments, or medical care to those in difficult or distant places.

For all who are discouraged by the burdens of life: that the compassionate love of God will renew their hearts and lead them through their struggles.

For all who live amidst civil discord and conflict: that God will break the cycle of violence, heal the divisions that exist within the civic community, and protect the innocent.

For all recovering from storms, floods, and wildfires: that God will ease their suffering, give them strength, and help them to find the resources that they need to rebuild their homes and lives.

For civility in public discourse: that public figures may respect the human dignity of each other and find ways to address the heart of the real issues of our world and nation.

For those who are starving or malnourished: that God will remove the bureaucratic barriers the block food distribution, help people to more aware of hunger around them, and come to the aid of those who lack food, particularly children.

For new spirit in leadership: that God will call women and men to leadership in the church, education, and government and gift them with critical insights and the ability to place the needs of the most vulnerable above their own.

O God, whose word burns like a fire within us, grant us a bold and faithful spirit, that in your strength we may be unafraid to speak your word and follow where you lead.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Hymn


“Lord, you duped me, and I let you;

Over me your triumph strong

Has me mocked with ceaseless outrage;

Scorned am I the whole day long.”

Thus the prophet spoke to Yahweh,

“I will preach your Name no more!”

But the need to give his witness

Still impelled him to the fore.


Thus did Jesus to his chosen

Tell of cross and bitter pain;

Peter, hoping to forestall this,

Spoke against this awful stain.

In rebuke there came the message:

You must daily take your cross,

Foll’wing me and self forsaking,

Gaining grace from life that’s lost.


Sisters, brothers, Christ is calling:

Offer living sacrifice

Of your bodies, holy, pleasing,

Unto God, beyond all price.

Not conformed to this world’s standards,

But renewed in heart and mind,

Thus shall God’s own will be shown forth,

Perfect, pleasing, good to find.

Communion Antiphon

Closing Hymn


Morning glory, starlit sky,
soaring music, scholar’s truth,
flight of swallows, autumn leaves,
memory’s treasure, grace of youth:


Open are the gifts of God,
gifts of love to mind and sense;
hidden is love’s agony,
love’s endeavor, love’s expense.


Love that gives, gives ever more,
gives with zeal, with eager hands, 
spares not, keeps not, all outpours,
ventures all its all expends.
Drained is love in making full,
bound in setting others free,
poor in making many rich,
weak in giving power to be.


Therefore he who shows us God
helpless hangs upon the tree;
and the nails and crown of thorns
tell of what God’s love must be.


Here is God: no monarch he,
throned in easy state to reign;
here is God, whose arms of love
aching, spent, the world sustain.