When we are blessed to live pass major milestones of our age, we find that we grow in wisdom on the road of life. This road is a hard teacher. As we aged, we grow in practicality, our youthful ideals diluted in realities. As we enter our sunset years, we come into the end game of life. Our chess board was once full of pieces. Over time we realised that life involved making sacrifices, but sacrifices brought with them fulfilment of a good life lived.
“Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God.” (Second Reading)
We are perhaps not fully aware of our own capacity to be living sacrifices. Will not a parent willingly endure all the hardship of a child? Will not a spouse willingly take up the cross of suffering for the other? Mercy, love, is a great driver. One rook sacrificed can lead us into a meaningful end game of our life. “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. (Today’s Gospel)
“Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.” (Gospel)
The road of life will show us that suffering for all of us is unavoidable. We must continue to travel on the road to our own Jerusalem. But it teaches us how to make the best of it. Redemptive suffering is a Catholic belief that when we unite our sufferings to Christ, we can redeem our sufferings for the physical or spiritual need of another. When we are fully aware of being redemptive in suffering, we take up our cross with intent rather than to allow our crosses in life to saddle us.
We can look at life as a chess game. For the average person, the major pieces will only come into play when we are older and tested by tougher issues. To prepare for our end game, we begin by moving our little pawns. Little pieces and small moves, but they shape the end game. Similarly, we can do little acts in daily life that will shape our behaviour so that when we eventually come to a crunch, we are able to respond in a way that would bring us fulfilment in life.
“Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.” (Second reading)
Being a living sacrifice for another person, and to love the other above self, are behaviour models that contradict the way of the world. This is the “new mind”. The road of life will eventually teach us that the road the world wants to lead us up is a cul-de-sac. “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” Chess is a game, life a match, for thinking beings.
We are not created for suffering, but suffering is an inevitable encounter along the road of life. Living our life as a living sacrifice is a strategy to prevent suffering in life to checkmate us.
“This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.” (Second reading)
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time