From: The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert. (by kind permission of the Abbot.)
FIRST READING Jeremiah 20:7-9
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.
SECOND READING Romans 12:1-2
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 Matthew 16:21-27
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.”
“His name becomes like fire burning in my heart”—this is from our first reading today, from the Prophet Jeremiah. God pursues us just as God pursued the Prophet Jeremiah. Often we do not realize this because we pay no attention to God. Today we are invited to pay attention to God and to know more profoundly how much God loves us and wants us to love Him.
The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans. Now we are invited to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This can help us understand that we cannot know God’s love for us unless we take time to think about God and to listen to God’s words to us. So many of us do not take the time to read the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, every day. Instead we remain like little children who have no education and only want to play! God invites us to take Him seriously and to begin to read His word in the Bible and to let that word form our lives.
Today’s Gospel, from Saint Matthew, tells us about the relationship of Jesus with His followers. Peter does not want Jesus to suffer. None of us wants others to suffer, for the most part. Yet a human life lived in a way only to avoid suffering is a wasted life. Instead, Jesus invites us to follow Him and to accept the suffering that come with that following.
Jesus tells us in strong words: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Clearly it is not natural for us to want the cross or to follow someone who will lead us into suffering. Nevertheless, Jesus invites us to know what life really is by following Him.
If we follow the Lord, we will suffer. We will become like the Prophet Jeremiah and complain that following God makes us suffer. We will be like Saint Paul in recognizing that we must be transformed by the renewal of our minds. In the midst of all of this, the name of God can become like fire burning in our hearts and allowing us to rejoice in this life, even in the sufferings, because we are loved by God and know that in following Him, we are returning His love.
Your brother in the Lord,