Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Title: The Cost of Discipleship: Following Christ’s Call to Suffering and  Service
Scripture: Matthew 16:21-28

21 From then on Jesus[a] began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.

22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him[b] for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?[c] Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. 28 And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear Jesus foretelling his passion and death to his disciples. This was difficult for them to comprehend, as they had just proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.

But Jesus knew that he must suffer and die before rising again. He tells the disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

These are challenging words for us too. As Christians, we are called to sacrifice and endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus asks us to deny ourselves – to let go of our ego, our desires, our need to be in control. He asks us to take up our cross – to embrace the difficulties and trials that come our way, uniting our pain with His redemptive suffering on the Cross. And he asks us to follow him – to live as his disciples, imitating his humble service and sacrificial love.

This goes against our human instincts of self-preservation and comfort. But Jesus assures us that losing our life for his sake will allow us to find true life – eternal life with God. As he tells the disciples, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

So let us reflect today on the crosses the Lord is asking us to carry.

Is he calling me to sacrifice more time for prayer, despite my busy schedule?

Is he asking me to give more generously to those in need, though money is tight?

Is he inviting me to forgive someone who has hurt me deeply?

Whatever cross we carry, we do not carry it alone.

Jesus walks with us in our suffering, helping to lighten our burden. He understands our weakness and pain, having experienced the agony of the Cross.

As we heard in today’s second reading, God gives us the grace to endure trials and equips us for every good work.

So let us take up our cross with trust in God’s providence.

By losing our lives for Christ, we will gain eternal life with Him in the glory of the Resurrection.

May we have the courage to daily deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.

Deep Dive 

Matthew 16:21 

The phrases “From then on” marks a turning point.

In Matthew 4:17 it signaled Jesus’ announcement of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Here it points to his new emphasis on his death and resurrection.

The disciples still didn’t grasp Jesus’ true purpose because of their preconceived notions about what the Messiah should be.

This is the first of three times that Jesus predicted his death (see Matthew 17:22-23; 20:18 for others). 

Matthew 16:21-28 

This passage corresponds to Daniel’s prophesies.

The Messiah would be cut off (Daniel 9:26); there would be a period of trouble (Daniel 9:27); and the king would come in glory (Daniel 7:13-14).

The disciples would endure the same suffering as their King and like him, would be rewarded in the end.

Matthew 16:22 

Peter, Jesus’ friend, and devoted follower who had just eloquently proclaimed Jesus’ true identity, sought to protect him from the suffering he prophesied.

But if Jesus hadn’t suffered and died, Peter would have died in his sins.

Great temptations can come from those who love us and seek to protect us.

Be cautious of advice from a friend who says, “Surely God doesn’t want you to face this.”

Often our most difficult temptations come from those who are only trying to protect us from discomfort.

Matthew 16:23 

In his wilderness temptations, Jesus heard the message that he could achieve greatness without dying (Matthew 4:9).

Here he heard the same message from Peter.

Peter had just recognized Jesus as Messiah; here, however, he forsook God’s perspective and evaluated the situation from a human one.

Satan is always trying to get us to leave God out of the picture.

Jesus rebuked Peter for this attitude.

Matthew 16:24

When Jesus used this picture of his followers taking up their crosses to follow him, the disciples knew what he meant.

Crucifixion was a common Roman method of execution, and condemned criminals had to carry their cross through the streets to the execution site.

Following Jesus, therefore, meant a true commitment, the risk of death m and no turning back (see Matthew 10:39).

Matthew 16:25 

The possibility of losing their lives was very real for the disciples as well as for Jesus.

Real discipleship implies real commitment – pledging our whole existence to his service.

If we try to save our physical life from death, pain, or discomfort, we may risk losing eternal life.

If we protect ourselves from the pain God calls us to suffer, we begin to die spiritually and emotionally.

Our lives turn inward, and we lose our intended purpose.

When we give our life in service to Christ, however, we discover the real purpose of living.

Matthew 16:26 

When we don’t know Christ, we make choices as though there were no afterlife.

In reality, this life is just the introduction to eternity.

How we live this brief span determines our eternal state.

What we accumulate on earth has no value in gaining eternal life.

Even the highest social or civic honors cannot earn us entrance into heaven.

Evaluate your lifestyle from an eternal perspective, and you will find your values and decisions changing.

Matthew 16:27 

Jesus Christ has been given the authority to judge all the earth (Romans 14:9-11; Philippians 2:9-11).

Although his judgment is already working in our lives, there is a future, final judgment when Christ returns (Matthew 25:31-46)_and everyone’s life will be reviewed and evaluated.

This will not be confined to unbelievers; Christians, too will face a judgment.

Their eternal destiny is secure, but Jesus will look at how they handled gifts, opportunities, and responsibilities in order to determine their heavenly rewards.

At the time of judgment, God will deliver the righteous and condemn the wicked.

We should not judge other’ salvation; that is God’s work.

Matthew 16:28 

Because all the disciples died before Christ’s return, many believe that Jesus’ words were fulfilled at the Transfiguration when Peter, James, and John saw his glory (Matthew 17:1-3).

Others say this statement refers to the Resurrection (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20) and he Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1).

Still others believe that Pentecost (Acts 2) and the beginning of Christ’s church fulfilled Jesus’ words.

In any case, certain disciples were eyewitnesses to the power and glory of Christ’ Kingdom.