22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
30 Aug 2023

Reading I: Jer 20:7-9
Psalm: 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
Reading II: Rom 12:1-2
Gospel: Mt 16:21-27


The readings for this Sunday are profoundly bodily. Souls thirst. (Psalm 63) Fire burns in hearts and bones. (Jeremiah 20:9) Bodies are weary and yet, are to be offered as “living sacrifices.” (Romans 12:1) Our minds are tormented by ridicule and rejection and yet, are called to be renewed in the spirit of Jesus, that we “might discern what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2).

Some may interpret today’s readings as saying that we are to reject our bodies and their cues; by mentally overcoming our pain and temptation, we achieve a higher and holier state. The expectations seem high.

We hear this same line of thinking echoed across social media: If you can overcome your body, you will achieve a better and happier life. Just lose weight, tighten your skin, treat your hair so it falls flat and shining, take the right supplements, go to the right boutique gym, and then you will achieve social and spiritual renewal.

Jesus tells us something different.

When Jesus tells the disciples that, someday soon, he will experience profound bodily anguish, Peter resists, asserting that there must be something the disciples and Jesus Himself can do to prevent such suffering. Peter says “God forbid!” (Matthew 16:22)

And so do we. We, like Peter, reject any sign of bodily change to come, for reasons big and small.

“God forbid a woman’s body takes time to ‘bounce back’ after childbirth.”

“God forbid, I think I see a gray hair!”

“God forbid, what if that scan catches something…”

But Jesus tells us what He tells Peter: “You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do.” (Matthew 16:23)

God’s own body changed numerous times. God was born of a human person, grew through angsty adolescence, was Transfigured, was broken, and died. Even when God’s body was resurrected, it retained the marks of his life on Earth. Resurrection did not wipe away Jesus’ wounds. This is what Nancy Eiesland, mother of disability theology, calls the Disabled God.

Peter’s – and our – attempts to stop death are futile. No human body is healthy forever. Even if we are lucky enough to experience relative health across our lives, at some point, we die. If we are most lucky, that death will come at the end of a beautiful process of aging which, in its own way, is disabling too.

It is certainly not wrong to desire the avoidance of suffering. Peter does not want Jesus to experience pain or death. Does anyone? We should do our best to assist our bodies: to pursue medical care, to stay active, to reduce stress, to tend lovingly to our skin and joints and hearts and minds. This is good. And still, this will not earn us perfect bodies. We, like Jesus, cannot avoid our death.

Whoever wishes to follow Jesus must take up the cross that is the human body. Whoever wishes to preserve their life and health will still lose it. What profit is there to gain if you achieve worldly approval – through excessive dieting, constant supplementation, over-exercising, self-hatred, rejection of disability – and forfeit living in the body you have?

We must listen to the cries of our bodies, not “overcome” them. We must embrace our weariness, not reject it.

When our bodies ache, it can feel, like Jeremiah says, like God has duped us. (Jeremiah 20:7) That we are imprisoned in our bones. (Jeremiah 20:9) What did I do to deserve this, God? Why me? 

But the knowledge that God suffered in His body like we do, that we are in communion with God through the body, quenches our thirst. We are not alone. Even if it does not “get better,” even if our bodies stay changed, God’s body stayed changed too.

Do not conform your body to the latest trends of this age. Do not squish yourself into a box of “ideal” traits. See that your body is already like God’s because it is different.

Then offer your body, exactly as it is, by doing what Jesus did in his body: Enjoy meals with friends at tables with room for everyone. Serve those who inhabit all types of bodies in all types of places. This love, in just the body you have, is good and pleasing and perfect.


Madison Chastain, MA

Marketing and Communications Manager