It seems to me that today’s readings have a bit of a darker tone to them. In the first reading we hear of violence and destruction and of Jeremiah resisting his prophecy to the point of internal anguish. In the second reading, we hear of our bodies as living sacrifices. Toss in the Gospel with Jesus speaking of his upcoming suffering, death and resurrection, well it all seems like there’s a bit of a dark cloud over today’s readings. Fear not, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel!
When hearing the first reading, then reading its entire passage in the bible, I’m struck by the fact that no matter what we do, we cannot stop God’s will. As Father Phil mentioned in his homily last week, most often it goes against societal norm to proclaim that we are followers of Christ. It’s most often uncomfortable, and it’s not always easy, but it is so worth it, as God blesses us and shields us. Even trying to keep it inside as Jeremiah did, go ahead and try, but you’ll also feel it like a “burning fire shut up in your bones”.
In the second reading, Paul appeals to us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. I don’t think Paul wants us to actually sacrifice our bodies; I’m interpreting this reading to mean that Paul wants us to surrender ourselves completely to God. Surrender from the depths of our hearts and the deep recesses of our souls. We accept God; we proclaim Christ and we live like Christ, modelling ourselves, not on the world but on Jesus. When we offer ourselves to God we discover his path for us and we can open ourselves to being transformed by him, wholly and completely.
I find the Gospel a bit difficult to read, as in the last couple of weeks, we have heard of Simon Peter’s unwavering strength and belief that Jesus is the Messiah and today we see his fallibility by questioning Jesus’ need for suffering and death. But he can’t deter Jesus from his mission and Jesus tells him as much when he says, so. “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you are thinking not as God does, but as humans do.” In wanting to protect and preserve Jesus, Simon Peter is not doing Jesus, or the world he comes to save, any kindness, if he deflects him from the path set forth by the Father.
“If anyone wants to become my follower, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Take up his cross and follow him, what does this mean?!?! Am I the only one who got stuck on that line? Before writing this reflection, I read all the readings and just kept coming back to that one line, take up his cross and follow him. It’s just there in my head. It took a bit of pondering and a lot of prayer and in my opinion, all three readings sum up to that one line. Jesus laid down his life on a cross and so should we, metaphorically speaking. As Saint Paul said, we should present our bodies as sacrifices, not just our bodies, minds and spirits but our entire way of life. To present our bodies as sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to God, in this case would be, in my opinion, to live our lives, not in the way of the world, but in the way of God. What do you say? Are you ready to pick up your cross and follow Jesus, wholly and completely?