22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time September 3, 2023

Fr. Rick’s Two Minute Homily for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 3, 2023, Matthew 16:24-28


The Cross is Freedom

We are grateful that most diocesan properties in our Diocese sustained little to no damage from Hurricane Idalia.

During Hurricane Irma last year, five school classrooms, parish offices, and church chapel flooded. After much expense, labor, and material, not one drop of water found its way into our buildings.

Our prayers are with our neighbors to the north who are dealing with hurricane damage from intense winds and high storm surges.

The Sacrament of the Sick is a powerful encounter with Jesus in areas where we suffer the greatest. Surgery carries its complications and difficulties. It can disrupt our lives, such as losing work and the ability to do the simplest things for ourselves.

Over time, it can cause a lot of frustration, anger, and even a bout of depression. One of the worst pains is the loneliness that sometimes no one close can relate to.

Strangely, Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross of pain and suffering, and follow Him. Denying ourselves is so freeing. It means we refuse to make ourselves the center of attention. Jesus is our center. And the cross we pick up is the hard choice to keep him at the center.

He knows it is the only weapon that gives us back our innermost self – our best self here (point to your heart), where He is always present to us. Let me share a personal experience after an operation on my lungs. I lay in a chair for six months for blood to drain out of my lungs. I couldn’t speak or take a deep breath for three months.

I was so depressed and angry. I had a pity party, “Why me, Lord.”

A good friend, a Catholic psychiatrist, told me after that surgery, “Embrace the pain, don’t fight it, embrace it.” At first, it sounded ridiculous – “Embrace it?” I thought, “Are you kidding?”

I imagine that is how Peter felt when Jesus said that he was going to Jerusalem and will be put to death by the teachers of the law. “You got be kidding, Jesus. This can’t happen to you.”

But when I did put my arms around myself, I was so helpless that I cried out to Jesus from a depth I didn’t know was there, “Help me, Lord Jesus. I can’t bear this suffering anymore.” I felt Jesus yoking himself to me and noticed how something inside of me changed.

The pain from the surgery was still there; I was still laid up and couldn’t talk, but the worry, anxiety, and how I was beating myself up with angry thoughts were long gone. I realized later, through the grace of God, I was embracing myself and loving myself through the pain.

I have learned that picking up my cross is the kindest thing I can do for myself. It keeps me humble and real.

Gospel Challenge:
Letting go of ourselves can be the most freeing experience of our lives. Throw your arms around yourself and embrace that pain and sufferingwith all you might. Don’t fear to be helpless. The Lord hears the cry of the poor (Psalm 34).

Lose this human life, my friends, because the life inside with the Lord is worth more than anything we can lose.

Peace everyone.


Fr. Rick Pilger, IC

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