This is my reflection on the Mass readings of the 22nd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A – August 31, 2014
Mass Readings: Jer 20:7-9; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27
“My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God” (Psalm 63:2). Gentle in tone and unadorned in expression, the human yearning for God, as reflected in the antiphon of this Sunday’s Responsorial Psalm, belies the zeal and vigour simmering deep in the psalmist’s heart. In fact, his longing for God is so overpowering that it makes him feel “like a land parched, lifeless, and without water” (Psalm 63:2b).
As a volunteer of the FLL ministry, I am constantly amazed by the same zeal and vigour that many fellow volunteers and staff members display in conducting their day-to-day FLL activities: people who travel and incur expenses due to ministry work without seeking reimbursements; people who stay late and get up in the wee hours in order to meet project or event deadlines; volunteers who have taken on so much work that their “voluntary positions” at FLL have effectively turned into full-time jobs with no pay; staff members who willingly accept a smaller salary in order to engage in more meaningful pursuits at FLL; leaders so dedicated to achieving the FLL vision and mission that their personal savings, life styles, daily needs, future plans, etc. have become mere after thoughts. Stories such as these are not uncommon in the FLL ministry.
In this Sunday’s readings, we find out the reason for these people’s dedication. True followers of Christ are driven not by earthly fame and fortunes, but by the love of Christ. “For the love of Christ impels us” (2 Cor 5:14)! They share prophet Jeremiah’s passion: They cannot suppress God’s compelling love, nor can they resist the opportunity to proclaim His name. Any attempt to do so will trigger some kind of uneasiness that “becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones” (Jer. 20:9), causing frustrations that are hard to endure. In other words, if these FLL volunteers and staff members work like men/women possessed, it is because what possesses them – what consumes their hearts and souls - is the love of God.
However, their dedication is not without its moments of doubts and wavering. Jesus, who was determined to accept his final suffering at the hands of “the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes” in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21), heard voices, coming from none other than the future Church leader he had just appointed. “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you,” said Peter (Mt. 16:22). The committed FLL volunteers and staff hear voices too. But when they do, one voice that always stands out is Jesus’ exhortation following his rebuke of Peter: “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” (Mt. 16:24-25).