St. Dominic Catholic Church

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Surrender to Win 2020-8-30 22nd Sunday Yr. A Fr. Roberto



Homily for 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic Church, Los Angeles
August 30, 2020

Title: Surrender to Win
Theme: If we want to “win” at life, we have to surrender ourselves to the Lord. 
Readings: Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew16: 21-27

I am sure that most of us here know what it means when someone waves a white flag like this, right? It means I…surrender. The words “I surrender” are two of the most repulsive words in just about every culture in the world. They are repulsive because they mean I give up, I can’t handle it, I am not strong enough or good enough, I am a coward, and I lose. Nobody wants to be a coward, and nobody wants to be a loser, right? However, what I want to tell you today is that, ironically, the key to a mature spiritual life, to a deep relationship with Jesus, and, therefore, the key to having a life filled with happiness, purpose and peace is precisely to surrender. 

Alcoholics Anonymous and all the 12-step recovery programs have helped millions of people regain their sobriety from addictions of all kinds. These programs are amazing, their spirituality is profound, and besides that, they have many great sayings. One of my favorites is this: surrender to win. That is what addicts have to do to get sober: not only do they have to give up their addiction, they also have to surrender their lives to what they call “a higher power,” i.e., God, because that is the only way they will get sober and stay sober – by realizing that they cannot do it on their own and asking God for help. That is the only way they will win over their addiction and win at life. Surrender to win.

And that is the same thing that all of us have to do to be a true disciple of Jesus: we too have to realize we cannot save ourselves, that we need Jesus’ help, and therefore, we have to surrender our lives to him. And when we do that, then we will find happiness, purpose and peace. Then we too will win at life. Well, guess what? All three of our readings today are about surrendering to the Lord, and, therefore, they are about surrendering to win. 

In the first reading, the poor prophet Jeremiah, is having a rough time. Jeremiah has been faithfully speaking God’s word to the people, but it is not a very easy or popular word. In fact, at this point in his life, because Jeremiah has denounced the political and religious leaders, he has been scourged and placed into stocks in front of the temple in Jerusalem so that those passing by can curse him, spit at him, throw things at him and laugh at him. 

So, in today’s reading, Jeremiah is understandably pretty ticked off at God and he says: “You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” In other words, he is telling God: “God, you really let me down. I’m suffering and you don’t seem to care. This isn’t fair; this isn’t what I signed up for when I decided to follow you. I’m trying to do the right thing and all I get are hassles and things not working out. Why did I ever trust you in the first place?” Now, how many of you have ever felt that way?  Be honest!

Jeremiah is so disillusioned, frustrated and angry, that he decides he will not mention God or speak in his name any more. But, at the very end of our reading today, Jeremiah has a change of heart. He realizes that he simply cannot hold God’s word inside of him because it is like a fire burning in his heart, and he has to let it out. So, Jeremiah surrenders to God; in other words, he lets go of his own agenda, his vision of how God should act and how God should use him, and he basically says, “Okay, Lord, I am yours; use me as you want.” And, because Jeremiah surrendered, he won; he remained one of God’s faithful and most powerful prophets of the Old Testament.

The second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans has some great and challenging scriptures, but I am going to skip them because I want to focus on today’s Gospel. We just heard Jesus ball out Peter and call him Satan. Wow! Just last week Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven! Why did Jesus react so strongly when Peter told him not to go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed? Because Peter was unknowingly undermining Jesus’ resolve to complete his mission of dying for our sins and, therefore, Peter was going against God’s plan to save the world. Peter was trying to impose upon Jesus his agenda and his vision of what kind of Messiah Jesus had to be: an all-powerful, military and political Messiah who would vanquish the Roman Empire, solve everyone’s problems and make life easy. 

And so Jesus launches into the Scriptures that are the heart of this Gospel and the heart of discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In other words, Jesus is saying to all of us: “If you want to be my disciple, you have to surrender to me. You’ve got to let go of your ego, of your agenda, of how you think God should act, of how you think the world should be, of how you think your life should work out. If you try to impose your will on me, it won’t work: you will lose your faith and lose your life; but if you surrender your will to mine, you will find your life. You will find, happiness, purpose and peace. Surrender to me and you will win at life.” Surrender to win.

Now, please understand that it is not as if Jesus were some sort of tyrant who demands that we surrender our wills to his to show us that he is the boss. The thing is, Jesus knows us and loves us more than we know and love ourselves. So he knows and wants what is best for us, and that will only come to us oly if we surrender to him by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following him. Then and only then will we win at life.

My brothers and sisters, Jeremiah, St. Paul, St. Peter and every true disciple of Jesus during the last 2,000 years has had to walk that same difficult road of surrender. They all had to let go of their ego, their agenda and their need to be in control. And none of them did it just once because surrendering is an ongoing process throughout our lives. So, the question is, are you and I ready to surrender to the Lord? Or is there some part of our life that – some situation, some relationship, something that we have not yet surrendered to the Lord? Whatever it is, let it go, surrender it to Jesus. Surrender to win.

I would like to finish today with a beautiful prayer composed by Blessed Charles de Foucauld called A Prayer of Abandonment:

I abandon myself into your hands; 
do with me what you will. 
Whatever you may do, I thank you: 
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, 
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul: 
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, 
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, 
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, 
and with boundless confidence, 
for you are my Father. Amen.