The great blessing and price of following Jesus are both hinted at in today’s readings. The readings serve as important reminders as we draw closer to the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe this Sunday, which culminates the Church’s annual liturgical year and anticipates the triumphant joy we will have in heaven, provided we persevere in the Lord as his trusting children (see Matt. 18:1-4).
In the First Reading from the Book of Revelation, St. John receives from an angel of God a scroll, which contains a prophecy to proclaim to the world. “It was sweet as honey in my mouth,” John says, “but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter” (Rev. 10:10-11).
The reading evokes the experience of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, whose God-given words tasted sweet because of the liberation they promise in the Lord if heeded (Ezek. 3:3; see John 8:31-32); yet, they also bring bitterness (Ezek. 3:14), given the repentance and reformation they entail for the house of Israel, and the accompanying trials Ezekiel would endure for his unpopular proclamation.
And so it is for us today. Jesus promises us perfect fulfillment (Matt. 6:33), but he also assures us that discipleship will require the bitter purification of our redemptive suffering. Indeed, right after speaking of his own Passion, Death and Resurrection on another occasion, Jesus teaches that we will endure our own Good Fridays: “And he said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).
Similarly, in today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus clears out the money changers from the Temple, because they have not sought God first but instead have sought to unjustly profit from their fellow Jews, while also impeding the Gentiles from worshiping in God’s house (Luke 19:46; see Isaiah 56:3-8). Christ’s cleansing forecasts the Roman destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, which itself serves as a sober warning about our own particular judgment when we die (CCC 1021-22), and God’s general judgment at the end of time (CCC 1038-41).
At the same time, because we are Christ’s disciples, we should not fear living or preaching the Gospel, because Jesus will give us the peace which the world cannot give, as the lives of so many saints, like St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Thomas More, exemplify well (see John 14:27).
On the other hand, some disciples can become too zealous in sharing God’s word, using Christ’s example of cleansing the Temple as justification for their own incendiary words and deeds toward loved ones and leaders in the Church. When tempted to act like that, we should recall that Jesus is the God-man, the all-knowing Lord who perfectly judges with mercy . In contrast, we are sinners who are in need of God’s mercy, and so we should follow St. Peter’s directive to speak the truth with humility, gentleness and reverence (1 Pet. 3:15). We want to do all we can to ensure that we’re effective as ambassadors of Christ.
Finally, in sharing the Gospel and calling ourselves and others to repentance, we should remember that no one—not even the worst human leader—is beyond the life-transforming mercy of God. And thus our real enemies are the devil and his demonic associates, “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12), who seek to limit the victory of Jesus. May we diligently and mercifully work to make God’s harvest as fruitful as possible!