22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 3, 2017)
We have just heard a very traumatic exchange between Peter and Jesus. I have always found it hard to listen to - and yet it points out very dramatically that suffering cannot be avoided by anyone who would follow Jesus.
Jesus reminds us that God’s ways are not our ways - a reminder that we need to hear frequently. Jesus also encourages us to conform our ways to God’s.
Jeremiah puts the struggles of a disciple in very emotional terms. He had accepted the role of prophet, but the words of violence and outrage that God had put in his mouth are not happy words. They have brought him pain and suffering and opposition. He feels that God has tricked him - and he knows that he let himself be tricked. Now, even when he tells himself that he isn’t going to speak up any more, the word of the Lord is like a fire burning in his heart, and he gets very weary trying to hold it in.
He has found that obeying God’s call to be a prophet is no longer a matter of choice for him, even if it brings him pain. His pain is real, yet it’s easier for him to endure his pain than it is to struggle to resist his summons to speak on God’s behalf. His emotional outburst offers us great insight into true discipleship. Faith and fervor and the ensuing suffering are made very clear for us.
St. Paul approaches the suffering and sacrifice of a disciple from another point of view. Paul envisions the struggles as a battle between our inclinations and our inspirations. He pleads with us to see things more clearly (to judge what is God’s will) - and to depend on our better insights to guide our behavior. Our struggle to do this every day is part of living as a disciple.
The daily sacrifices involved in conforming our ways to God’s are the great means we have of taking up our cross daily and following in Jesus’ footsteps.
At the end of today’s gospel passage, Jesus reminds us that there is a reward for our willingness to conform our ways to God’s. We have a sharing in his Father’s glory. Taking the time each day to keep in touch with the desire for God burning in our hearts can help us to continue our struggle even when we may feel that we have been tricked by the Lord. Whenever we make the choice to lose our life for the sake of God, then we will find the only life that means anything - life with Jesus.