Today's readings are taken from:
Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans 12:1-2
Gospel according to Matthew 16: 21-27
Jeremiah cried out to the Lord, "You duped me and I let myself be duped. You were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me." Jeremiah continues on to tell us that he is determined not to talk about the Lord anymore. Jeremiah will be silent, but then the name of the Lord burns within Jeremiah and he must speak.
I asked myself and I ask you, have we been duped by the Lord? In a way I hope the answer is yes. Have we been seduced by Jesus to take up the mission of proclaiming the Word? Do we stand up against the worldliness that can turn us into uncaring people, looking only for our personal gain and comfort. Are we brave enough to speak out when needed and then accept the derision we might receive when we testify to our mission? In many ways, we too can be prophets and then be willing to suffer the mocking and laughter that can follow. But in our hearts we can hold tight to the name of the Lord that indeed burns within us knowing that the Lord is always with us and within us.
As I reflected on the Gospel reading, I wondered if Peter too, felt that he had been duped. In the previous passages of Matthew, Jesus told Peter that he was blessed and that Peter would be the rock upon which Jesus would build His Church. Peter must have felt both fear and delight in hearing that he would be a vital part of the kingdom on earth. Through God the Father, Peter had been able to proclaim that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter was probably both humbled and proud.
This week, as Peter hears more and more about what Jesus will endure for our Salvation, he must be horrified. Jesus is the Son of God; things should be easy for Him. Instead, Jesus will walk the path of humiliation, great suffering and death. Peter rejects the possibility of a suffering Jesus and is sharply rebuked by Jesus. Peter is compared to Satan; an obstacle to Jesus; perhaps tempting Jesus to take an easier path. Jesus tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it."
And so Peter learns, as did Jeremiah, that the prophetic message may not be received with joy and happiness, but rather may be received with derision and even hatred. We need to be careful not to conform to this age. We need to point out when power is abused; when our worth is defined by our wealth; when many people around us are deep into poverty and homelessness. I'm not sure it is enough to live our lives in virtue and piety; maybe we need to take some action, speak out, etc. I don't know what my next step should be, but I do know that when Jesus didn't know what to do next, He spent the night in prayer, asking His father to show Him what He should do next. Maybe that's a good place for me to start.
Peace and Blessings,