Twenty-Second Sunday of the Year Jeremiah 20: 7-9; Romans 12: 1-2; Matthew 16: 21-27
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.’”
The gospels record the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. More than this, they are a daily challenge to all who would follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Jesus made it quite clear to his disciples that the cross he bore could never remain with him alone. His cross must become a challenge that is accepted and lived in our own lives.
We, like Peter, are ready to proclaim our faith in Jesus. Like Peter, we often fail to understand the implication of the faith we so easily profess. When Jesus referred to his approaching passion, Peter’s response was instinctive.
“Heaven preserve you Lord. This must not happen to you.”
The reaction of Jesus was both immediate and uncompromising: “Get behind me Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”
As sinners, more than we perhaps realise, our instinctive reaction is to put self before others, self-preservation before sacrifice. Within us all there is a continuing struggle between sinful instinct and God’s saving will.
The Prophet Jeremiah, despite his calling, experienced that same struggle within himself.
“You have seduced me Lord, and I have let myself be seduced. You have overpowered me. I am a daily laughing stock. The Word of the Lord has meant for me insult and derision all day long.”
If our Christian witness, both in word and action, is authentic, it will inevitably encounter resistance from a sinful world. We, like the prophet Jeremiah, will not stand alone when faced with life’s inevitable challenges.
“Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it.”
St Paul understood Jeremiah’s hidden fire as the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was in the strength of this same Spirit that Paul invited us to live our lives as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to the Father. God’s Spirit within us is greater than our fears, and, in the strength of that Spirit, Paul called us to a new way of life.
“Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good and the perfect thing to do.”