Sunday readings September/October 2017

Breaking the Word Sundays
Sundays in September and October 2017
Robert Draper

'In the readings, as explained by the homily, God speaks to his people, opening up to them the mystery of redemption and salvation, and offering them spiritual nourishment; and Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word.' (GIRM 55)

In the next two months we continue to follow Matthew's gospel where Jesus' teaching increasingly leads to clashes with the religious authorities. Much of Jesus' teaching continues to be in parables, and this requires serous work on the part of the hearer, if they are indeed to hear God's word and draw 'spiritual nourishment' from it. The parables are intended to cause the believer to stop and ponder God's word, not because the teaching is over-sophisticated or too complicated, but because it challenges accepted ways of thought and received wisdom. Jesus' words are always designed to provoke and demand a response - a response that can only be appropriate when made with prayer and reflection.

The following short reflections are offered to help give a setting to the various scripture texts presented in the Lectionary, to show how they articulate some of the great themes of Christian faith and to offer some implications for the living out of that faith. Robert Draper is a parish priest in Dorset and a Vicar General of the Diocese of Plymouth.

Sunday 3 September
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary time
Jeremiah 20.7-9
Psalm 62
Romans 12.1-2
Matthew 16.21-27

Perhaps many will be unsettled by Jeremiah's suggestion that God is a seducer and a bully as he complains about what he is going through in trying to carry out God's command. This is not the sort of language that you might expect from a prophet. But Jeremiah's experience has led him to such a conclusion. Perhaps part of the discomfort for us lies in the fact that so many of us try to seduce or bully God - 'just let me have this and I'll do whatever you ask' or 'if you don't let me do this then I'll stop being your friend.' The relationship between God and God's people is never an easy one - the Hebrew scriptures offer us plenty of evidence of that. Jesus makes that quite clear in today's gospel: Peter is roundly rebuked for suggesting that there can be a soft option for Jesus. The same is true of his followers: 'anyone who wants to save his life will lose it.' The bottom line seems very stark - the offer is life with God, or no life at all. It has to be on God's terms, but not - as Jeremiah might appear to be complaining - because God is a tyrant, but because only God knows what life really means and what has real value. That is what Paul means by calling on the Romans to let their 'behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.' Jeremiah, Paul, Peter and all of us have to learn that, in the end, there is only God's way if we want life that counts.

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