You duped me, O Lord, 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. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. 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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “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, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”
Jeremiah is indignant today in our first reading. God has lead him to a way of living that makes him an object of scorn, a way of living that invites people to laugh at him. Jeremiah wants to throw all this back at God and reject God entirely, but Jeremiah can’t do this. The Word of God is too strong in him, even when he wants to reject it. What a strong message for us today!! Aren’t there times when we don’t want to listen any more to Jesus and His words? Aren’t there times when our hearts rebel against the Lord and His word? Aren’t there times when we simply want to accept the values of our own age and time?
It is as though our own hearts can cry out with Jeremiah: “Leave me alone! I want nothing to do with you! Just let me get on with my life!” And yet like Jeremiah, we too are caught by the Word of God and cannot simply deny that God is peaking to us and calling to us and demanding of us that we follow Him, even when we want to go another way.
If we can understand Jeremiah a little bit today, then we can begin to understand today’s Gospel and why it is so strong. Peter cannot stand the though that Jesus is going to suffer and die for the way that He has lived. He protests and Jesus responds so strongly! Get behind me, Satan!
Then the clear message that echoes the Prophet Jeremiah: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” We who have been caught by Jesus cannot deny him! We must follow Him. We must take up the cross each day and learn how to deny ourselves.
This is not about penance or somehow being mean to ourselves or about trying to destroy ourselves. No, it is about following Jesus! To follow Him, we have to hear His voice and then follow, not matter what the cost. The cost is enormous: our whole self! We must be willing to give everything to follow Him and we must be willing to fight all of our other tendencies and attractions so that we follow Him alone. It is so easy to compromise! We can say to ourselves, as perhaps we often do, that we will follow Him as long as it is not too difficult. This is what Jeremiah tried to do. But it does nto work in the long run. Instead, we must follow Him completely, with all the strength that we can manage, we must try to do His will and allow ourselves to be formed by Him.
Today we can commit ourselves again to listening to the Word of God, listening to Christ Himself, and then we must commit ourselves to following Him! Let us pray that we can have this courage and faith!