During the Church’s Ordinary Time, believers rehear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are invited one again to journey with him. Beyond the feasts and higher liturgical seasons of the year, Ordinary Time takes us back to teachings, parables, and lessons of the Lord.
We are invited to walk with him, see his way of life, and recommit ourselves to him.
As we make this journey with him, we realize that throughout the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus, he boldly named the fallen prince of this world and declared his opposition to the kingdom of lies and deception. The Lord entered the battle against sin and darkness for the sake of righteousness and he suffered its agony on our behalf.
It’s no accident, therefore, that the Lord’s public ministry is marked by multiple exorcisms and denunciations of bad spirits. The entire force of evil, the impulse behind destruction and deception, were in league against him. And yet, the Lord Jesus – true God and true Man – stayed the course. He prayed to the Father. Appealed to the Father’s goodness. Allowed himself to be dependent on the Father’s care and guidance.
The Lord accepted the lead and shepherding of God the Father. The two were in close union, with the Lord’s human nature obeying and seeking the direction of God the Father.
As the Letter to the Hebrews explains: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered.”
In these ways, the Lord Jesus trusted in the presence and providence of God the Father. As such, he could endure suffering, accept persecution, and persevere in his mission.
The Lord’s work of redemption culminated in his Paschal Mystery, which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. The Paschal Mystery is the definitive battle between good and evil, light and darkness, God’s redemption and the Evil One’s damnation. And Jesus came ready for the fight. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked that the cup of suffering might pass, but above such desires, he sought nothing else but complete union with the Father and a total submission to his will.
The Lord allowed himself in all things, even in the throes of betrayal, mockery, and torture, to be led by the kindness of God the Father. He would not run away. The Lord would not call upon the angelic hosts to rescue him. He learned obedience through suffering.
As we witness the Lord’s loving fidelity to the Father and his tenacity in the battle against evil, we hear the invitation in our hearts to follow him. We know that the Lord should not be fighting alone. We are meant to be with him.
And so, on this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear the Lord’s call for us to join in his work of salvation in peace. He summons us to the battle for truth and goodness. He beckons us to follow the most excellent way of love and to suffer for the sake of righteousness.
The Lord announces: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
In our lives, do we seek to imitate the Lord Jesus in taking up our cross and battling against evil? Do we trust in the loving care of our Father, even when times are tough? Do we stay faithful to God in the sufferings that come with speaking the truth and defending goodness?
Fighting fire with fire only leads to a scorched earth. Taking an eye for an eye only leads to a blind humanity. Our task is to give love in the face of hate, hope in the midst of despair, compassion in the throes of judgement, and peace in the arena of chaos.
In taking the side of the Lord, we enter into the battle between what Saint Paul called “the flesh and spirit,” between the kingdom of God or the kingdom of the Evil One.
In choosing not to succumb to sin and darkness, we follow a higher path. We take up our cross, assume the mantle of the Lord Jesus, and become a part of his struggle for the salvation of the world. This is not an easy task, but it’s the only one worth suffering for.
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby