The 22nd Sunday of the Year
Jer 20:7-9; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27 (Year A)
‘You have seduced me Lord, and I have let myself be seduced; you have overpowered me: you were the stronger. I am a daily laughing stock, everybody’s butt.”
The prophet Jeremiah’s heartfelt words lay bare the raw humanity at the heart of his vocation. At his calling he had protested his weakness, describing himself as no more than a child. Despite his frailty, the Lord had insisted: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you to protect you; it is the Lord who speaks. I am putting my words into your mouth.”
As Jeremiah faced the inevitable isolation generated by his unwelcome mission, he expressed a resentment frequently felt but rarely expressed. Speaking of a God whose assurances seemed to have vanished, he voiced his resentment: “I used to say, ‘I will not think about him, I will not speak in his name any more.’ ”
In less dramatic ways our Christian faith will be both challenged and mocked. Like Jeremiah, we shall be tempted to remain silent, to dissolve into the anonymity of the crowd, to forget the assurance we once felt.
It is in humble prayer alone that we are enabled to reach beyond our fears, to rediscover an assurance that has never abandoned us. Jeremiah reached beyond his fear and resentment. “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.”
Jeremiah’s experience foreshadowed the rejection that would be shared by Jesus and his disciples. As the disciples rejoiced in their calling, he warned them of what must lie ahead: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it. Anyone who loses his life for my sake will gain it.”
Peter’s reaction – “this must not happen to you” – though hasty, expressed a perfectly natural fear of anything that threatens our wellbeing. We want to hang on to ourselves and hesitate before anything that threatens our security. To think in such a manner is indeed “not God’s way but man’s”.
We follow in the footsteps of one who did not cling to his equality with God, but humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death. Faith is the way of self-abandonment, that we may find ourselves in Christ, whose name is above every other name.
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