Aug 28: We are called to conform to the Cross of Christ
It isn’t very often that the three Readings on a Sunday in Ordinary Time carry a clear common thread. For the twenty-second Sunday the second Reading, from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, offers a commentary on the readings that surround it.
We open with the famous 20th chapter of Jeremiah where he cries out to God in utter frustration, feeling himself “duped” by the Word of God and the mission of prophecy that he has received. Although the reading is quite abbreviated from the full passage in the text, we have enough here to get a sense of the struggle of Jeremiah’s faith.
Jeremiah knew he had received the call to prophesy and, over his initial objection, he accepted that call. That did not mean that everything was going to be easy for him and it certainly was not. The soliloquy here comes before many of the great struggles he is yet to experience in his mission as prophet. It will end with his assassination by his own countrymen.
In the Gospel we again encounter St. Peter as attempts – rather erroneously – to explain to Jesus what it means to be the Messiah. Jesus has just warned the disciples that his mission was to the Cross. Peter does not understand it that way and Jesus sternly rebukes him – “Get behind me Satan!” Certainly Peter must have been very taken aback by such a strong response from Jesus.
Jesus goes on to explain to Peter and the disciples that their call – and the call of all discipleship – is to deny self and take up the cross daily and follow him. We know that Peter, too, has yet to experience the most severe of the trials of his own life. Peter will literally be forced to take up his cross in testimony to his faith in Jesus.
Both Jeremiah and Peter were men of their own mind. They are strong individuals who each heard the call of God directly in their lives. They had already begun the abandonment of self – Jeremiah as he hears the call to prophecy and Peter as he abandoned his fishing nets and family – in order to respond to the call to something greater than themselves. Neither of them knew the full weight or the implications of that call but they went forward with it.
Jeremiah and Peter still had much to learn. Their acceptance of the call did not come with a total and complete conversion. They each had yet to grow in knowledge, faith and relationship. They were incomplete in themselves, still in need of overcoming their own resistance to the mission to which they had been called.
We encounter Jeremiah and Peter at critical moments in their journeys.
Each of us has our own critical moments in our call to conversion and life of faith. We want to be disciples but often we want to do it our own way. We want to conform the Gospel to us instead of us to the Gospel. Jeremiah wants to walk away and abandon his call altogether. Peter wants to follow the messiah, but not to the cross. Peter has his own ideas of what it means for Jesus to be the messiah and crucifixion was not in his plan. Each of us has his or her own idea of what God’s will is for us, for others and for the world. More often than not those are simply our own plans disguised as God’s plan.
St. Paul offers this advice to the Romans: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” This is a wisdom that both Jeremiah and Peter needed to learn at the point of their lives where we encounter them in these readings.
It is easy for us to become discouraged as did Jeremiah or confrontational as was Peter when our plan and God’s plan do not seem to be meshing the way we want.
We all need to learn the wisdom to know when we need to embrace the cross before us and when we need to say: “get behind me Satan” to the stumbling blocks that come our way.
Dr. Garry Koch is a seminarian for the Diocese of Trenton.
Tweet this story[[In-content Ad]]